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LIveblog: House HHS Committee Hearing – July 9

Rose Hoban – 11:50 meeting adjourns

Rose Hoban – 11:47

Vicky Boyer, in opposition. “This bill does effectively take away a women’s right to abortion in NC. if you really want women’s health and safety, you really have adequately fund DHHS… to sort out all clinics that are doing well.”

“When a woman becomes pregnant and considers abortion, she talks to her girlfriends, her family, even her father. She  does not say, ‘gee let me call my state representatives and see what they think.'”

Holly West – 11:40

Wendy Banister, executive director for an organization that provides pregnancy and sexual health resources, spoke about her experience with patients choosing the RU486 abortion pill. She said patients reported being inadequately prepared for the process.

“Universally their comments have been that it’s a procedure they would never choose again,” Banister said. “They were unable to access their abortion provider for after-hours assistance. Follow-up appointments were non-existent.”

Rose Hoban – 11:37

Marty McCaffrey, neonatalogist, UNC, addressed five points about abortion:

  • abortion is a surgical procedure in 75 percent of cases in NC
  • abortion is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in NC
  • abortion can cause bleeding infection and death
  • abortion clinics are classified separately from all other clinics
  • serious deficiencies have been found in NC

“I once told an obstetrical colleague that abortion is held to a lesser standard, that we’ve placed abortion on a pedestal occupied by no other procedure.

Holly West – 11:34

Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life, said having a physician present during abortions is necessary. She said Planned Parenthood has pushed “webcam abortions” that allow doctors to prescribe abortion drugs from hundreds of miles away.

She said her organization opposes all abortions.

“In all that’s been said today, one of the things we’ve failed to remembers is that abortion is never safe for the unborn child,” she said.

Rose Hoban – 11:30 am

Beverly Falls, retired OB/GYN speaking started by talking about watching a woman die from pre-eclampsia.

“After Roe V Wade, in the folowing 5 years, maternal mortailty dropped 85 percent in North Carolina due to access to safe legal elective choice.”

She was followed by two women who told stories of abortions for themselves or from before Roe v. Wade.

Fayetteville resident Emily Everetts said she had an abortion at the age of 18 while in an emotionally abusive relationship. She said her decision allowed her to get an education and pursue her dreams.

“I’m here to stand for women who have made this deeply personal decision,” said Everetts.

Rose Hoban – 11:23 am

Tami Fitzgerald from the NC Family Values Coalition, Barbara Holt from NC Right to Life and John Rushton from the NC Family Policy Council.

Rushton: “The house has already vetted and approved majority of the provisions in this bill. Section 6 C, requires DHHS to amend its rules to make abortion clinics safer.”

“These are commonsense requirements to protect the health and well being of abortion services in this state, especially when those services involve an invasive procedure.”

Holly West – 11:22 am

Suzanne Buckley, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said the current abortion clinic standards are efficient, and this bill is just another barrier to reproductive healthcare for women.

“We already have 18 pages of requirements,” she said.  “It’s one of the most highly regulated procedures in North Carolina.”

Rose Hoban – 11:10 am

Sarah Preston, ACLU: “We know from experience in other states that this regulations in the bill will shut some clinics down.”

Preston complained about the procedure of the bill being presented last week.

“Any concerns or questions raised cannot be addressed because no amendments were able to be offered. This hearing today does not correct the process this bill has gone through so far.”

Rose Hoban – 11:05 am

Chairman Hollo said the committee will hear from three against the bill and three in favor. First up, NARAL ProChoice NC head Suzanne Buckley.

HHS Secretary Aldona Wos (far, blonde hair) speaks to legislative questions about HB 695. Rep. Ruth Samuelson (red jacket) stands in the foreground.

HHS Secretary Aldona Wos (far, blonde hair) speaks to legislative questions about HB 695. Rep. Ruth Samuelson (red jacket) stands in the foreground.

Holly West –  11:03 am

Rep. Beverly Earle (D-Charlotte) said these regulations seem to have more to do with restricting access to abortions than ensuring the safety of women.

“Some of what I received said that they would have to make adjustments to the parking lot, to the surgical seats, to the colors of the paint used,” she said. “I’m trying to figure how this has anything to do with the safety of women.”

Earle said DHHS’s current regulations on abortion clinics seem to be working, but the department needs resources to perform inspections on a more regular basis.

Rose Hoban – 10:56 am

Questions between Rep Nelson Dollar (R-Cary) and Drexdel Pratt, Dollar asked if clinics closed in Charlotte and Durham “isn’t it fair to say those facilities might not have had to be closed down had they had to adhere to some higher level of standards and operations?”

Pratt: “The two clinics were cited and closed for existing rule violations, to say that there are additional standards… I’m  not sure that would make a difference.”

Dollar: “The standards and procedures and what you have to do in order to operate a surgical center is far greater than the certification are great than what the clinic in Durham, correct?”

Pratt: “Yes, the requirements are more stringent for surgical centers than for abortion clinics.”

Rose Hoban – 10:52 am

Rep. Bert Jones (R-Reidsville) read from a statement he had prepared, noting the unusual nature of today’s meeting.

“Most people who call themselves pro-choice on the issue say they want the procedure to be safe and rare,” Jones said. “I’d say that… the bill is about fairness and equal treatment of women”

“A surgical center should not be allowed to have lower standards just because all of the patients are women,” he said, noting that he had received a lot of email from constituents around the bill.

Rep. Insko asked if Jones thought the abortion clinics should adhere to the standards for surgical centers, to which Jones responded, “I believe that the supporters and sponsors of this legislature are willing to work with the administration on the language in this bill.”

“Frankly I think you could go into every abortion clinic in the state at 5 o’clock every day and do an inspection and I’m not sure you’re going to answer all of the questions that this bill provides for answering,” he said.

Holly West – 10:44

Drexdel Pratt from DHHS said the bill’s vague language will make it hard for the department to write specific regulations for abortion centers. The bill says abortion clinics should have standards “similar to” ambulatory surgical centers.

“DHHS will have to define similar to and have documentation to support that definition,” he said. “This could mean any change to rules for ambulatory surgical centers could mean changes for abortion clinics as well.”

He said only one abortion clinic in the state meets the requirement that doctors are required to have admitting privilege or transfer agreements with local hospitals.

Rose Hoban – 10:40 am

In an exchange between DHHS health services regulation chief Drexdel Pratt and Rep Verla Insko (D-Chapel Hill) concluded with Insko saying, “I do agree that if you really are interested in protecting the health and safety of women the best way is to increase the inspections of the clinics.”

Rose Hoban – 10:25 am

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said, “as the Gov said yesterday in his press conference, we need to ask serious questions about the current regulations.”

Wos said she needs to know that the regulations are “sound, reasonable and are they being enforced.” Wos also noted that the experts in DHHS were previously not asked for their input on the bill before it was presented.

Wos said she and DHHS agree with parts of the bill, e.g. the conscience provisions of the bill, “but the Governor and the Department agree on the importance of health and safety for the women of North Carolina.

Wos noted regulations had not been updated since 1995. She also said that she was concerned about the department’s ability to conduct regular inspections.

“The acute care licensing  departments of DHHS has 10 full time who survey hundreds of facilities across the state,” Wos said.

“As a result, DHHS is only able to inspect the medical component of abortion clinics every 3-5 years. To those who disagree with any new rules and regulations this is unrealistic,” Wos said.

Rose Hoban – 10:20 am

Staff will present the bill, this is the usual procedure for hearings.

Before that happened, Sen. Warren Daniel made a few comments, he’s the sponsor of the bill on the Senate side.

He said many of the state’s regulations were written before the advent of modern technology, many in the 1970s.

“What happened in the Gosnell clinic in Pennsylvania cannot be allowed to happen here in North Carolina,” Warren said. He called the additional measures in HB 695 “simple and commonsense that rational people should be able to agree on.

“We’re not taking away the rights of women, we’re taking way the rights of an industry to operate clinics in substandard conditions,” Daniel said.

Rose Hoban – 10:07 am

A know of about 100-200 people outside are protesting the bill.

A knot of about 100-200 people outside are protesting the bill.

Rose Hoban – 10:00 am

Committee Chair Mark Hollo (R-Taylorsville) talks to one of the House Sergeant-at-arms

Committee Chair Mark Hollo (R-Taylorsville) talks to one of the House Sergeant-at-arms

HHS committee chair Mark Hollo (R-Taylorsville) said last night he expects today’s committee meeting to be “crowded” and ” I plan on it being strict to guidelines, strict as to not allowing outbursts, not letting people disrupt the procedures of the committee, I expect both sides to be respectful of the others.”

Indeed the room is crowded, with the visitors’ area mostly evenly divided between people in support of concurrence with HB 695 (wearing blue) and people opposed to the bill (wearing pink).

Hollo said there will be no vote on the bill, as it’s technically still in the Senate, pending the Senate meeting and releasing the bill to the House side.

“This is a bill for concurrence, it doesn’t normally go to a committee. We’re actually going beyond what is usually done to allow it to be heard and people to be heard,” Hollo said.

Hollo said he doubts the bill would be heard on the House floor later today, Tuesday. He said he had no idea when it would.

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