July 3, 2013 — The North Carolina Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to several abortion restrictions after a committee attached the provisions to an unrelated bill (HB 695), WRAL's "@NCCapitol" reports.
The measure combines various antiabortion-rights bills that were in different stages of the legislative process into one omnibus measure, which was attached to a bill that prohibits recognition of foreign laws in family courts.
The legislation would require abortion clinics to meet licensing requirements similar to those for ambulatory surgical centers and obtain transfer agreements with local hospitals. In addition, the bill would mandate that a physician be present during abortion procedures, including medication abortions, which involve taking two drugs two days apart. It is unclear how much of that time a physician would have to remain with the patient, according to "@NCCapitol."
The bill also would allow any health care provider to refuse to participate in abortion-related services, prohibit health plans available through the state's insurance marketplace from offering abortion coverage, ban state funding for abortions except to save a woman's life or in cases of rape or incest, and ban abortions based on the sex of the fetus.
Changes Made in Committee
The Senate Rules Committee took up an amendment to add the abortion-related provisions on Tuesday evening, although the proposals were not listed on its calendar (Binker, "@NCCapitol," WRAL, 7/3).
Democrats criticized the move to bring up the bill without public notice. Groups that oppose abortion rights -- including N.C. Values Coalition, the N.C. Family Policy Council and N.C. Right to Life -- attended the hearing, but abortion-rights groups were not told the measure would be discussed, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
The full Senate voted 27-14 to give the bill tentative approval and will hold a final vote on Wednesday. If passed, the bill then would move to the state House, which already approved some of the provisions included in the omnibus bill.
Gov. Pat McCrory (R) pledged during his campaign that he would not sign any further abortion restrictions into law. However, the bill could become law without his signature, according to the News & Observer.
State Sen. Warren Daniel (R) said the provisions are necessary to protect women's safety, while Democratic state Sen. Angela Bryant argued that the measure "is really about limiting women's rights."
Only one abortion clinic in the state meets the measure's licensing requirements, while four Planned Parenthood clinics do not.
NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Executive Director Suzanne Buckley said, "It seems to me that they're trying to pass under cover of darkness legislation that would not otherwise be passed." The group called on its supporters to gather outside the Legislature on Wednesday to lobby against the bill.
Melissa Reed, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Health Systems, noted that about half of abortions in North Carolina are medication abortions. "The intention of the folks that made the changes to this bill is to end access to abortion care in North Carolina," Reed said, adding, "It's a wish list of all the restrictions they've been trying to get through and weren't able to during the regular time period of this session. It would [basically end] access to medical abortion; it could shut down a large number of providers in this state" (Bonner/Frank, Raleigh News & Observer, 7/2).