July 12, 2013 — The North Carolina House on Thursday passed antiabortion-rights legislation that would give Gov. Pat McCrory's (R) administration wide power to regulate abortion clinics in the state, the New York Times reports (Blinder, New York Times, 7/11). The measure now advances to the Senate (Brumfield, CNN, 7/11).
The measure would allow the state's Department of Health and Human Services to "apply any requirement" that applies to ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics, as long as the regulations do not impede access to abortion.
The bill also would require a physician to be present while the first drug used in a medication abortion is administered (New York Times, 7/11). It also includes restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion (CNN, 7/11).
Shift From Senate Approach
The legislation is distinct from an omnibus antiabortion-rights measure the state Senate passed last week. The chamber approved that bill after senators attached several antiabortion-rights provisions to an unrelated measure, prompting outrage among opponents and a veto threat from McCrory. State House Republicans decided to develop their bill in conjunction with McCrory's administration and hold a public hearing (New York Times, 7/11).
McCroy could still veto the House legislation, although there are enough conservative votes in the House and Senate to override a veto, according to CNN (CNN, 7/11).
State Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R) -- the bill's sponsor -- said the legislation "is really all about protecting the health and safety of women." She added, "We are not here trying to shut down every abortion clinic in North Carolina."
However, opponents said the legislation could be used to restrict access to abortion services. State Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D) pointed out that the bill "can still close clinics in North Carolina, depending on what the [health] department decides to do."
State Rep. Rick Glazier (D) said, "To an extreme legislative majority bent on eliminating the right to choice, everything looks like a health regulation, ready to be used and abused to dismantle access to that choice."
Samuelson said the public hearing yielded "more debate and more opportunity for change and discussion and correction than if we had followed the normal process" before voting on the bill, while Glazier castigated the effort as a "rewrite by moonlight" (New York Times, 7/11).
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood spokesperson Staci Fox said North Carolina's proposals and similar legislation in other states are part of nationwide attack on women's reproductive rights. "Bills like these have been introduced in 42 states," she said, adding, "This is a whole new level of attack on women's health" (CNN, 7/11).