Photo credit: Stephen Cummings, flickr creative commons

By Rose Hoban

A bill to add hurdles to a woman obtaining an abortion is on its way to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk Wednesday after receiving a favorable vote in the House of Representatives.

And in a statement Wednesday evening, McCrory indicated he plans to sign the bill.

The House voted mostly along party lines to concur with the Senate on the Women and Children’s Protection Act before sending it to the governor.

The bill will triple the waiting period for a woman to obtain an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours. Two Democrats joined the majority to vote for the bill.

States that impose a waiting period between counseling and a woman obtaining an abortion. Data and map courtesy Guttmacher Institute
States that impose a waiting period between counseling and a woman obtaining an abortion. Data and map courtesy Guttmacher Institute

When McCrory signs the bill, North Carolina will become the fifth state in the country to have a three-day waiting period, along with Missouri, Utah, South Dakota and Oklahoma.

During the concurrence debate on Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers in the House argued that the bill was overly restrictive and the additional waiting period did nothing to enhance the health of women seeking an abortion.

Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Fayetteville) noted that the bill lacked any legislative “findings of fact” that often are part of a bill’s drafting process, especially those that could have a constitutional challenge.

“The legislative record on that issue, I remind you all, contains no documentation or evidence, no studies or surveys, no academic analysis, not even anything as anemic as a simple expert report,” argued Glazier.

“Just for the record, every bit of medical evidence has been clear for decades: that delays of any sort in obtaining an abortion – whether administrative, legal, financial or logistical – have the same net effect. That is, they increase the risk and cost with no benefit to the woman,” Glazier said.

But the biggest complaint Democrats had about the bill was that the Senate rolled a number of unrelated provisions into it that had to do with sexual offenses and domestic violence.

Democrats in the Senate had complained of the same thing.

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The final bill contained the abortion provisions that stipulate a 72-hour waiting period, that physicians performing abortions later than 16 weeks send data about their decision-making process to the state Department of Health and Human Services, that DHHS personnel inspect abortion clinics annually and that physicians who perform abortions receive sufficient training.

The bill also defines statutory rape as sex with anyone under 15, given that one person is six years older than the other; makes sentences tougher for people who commit an assault in front of a minor; strengthens pre-trial restrictions on domestic violence offenders; and strengthens laws governing the activities of registered sex offenders.

The bill also mandates the creation of a Maternal Mortality Review Board, which will examine deaths of women who die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, in an attempt to improve North Carolina’s maternal mortality rate.


Parliamentary move

Rep. Mickey Michaux (D-Durham), the longest-serving member of the House, attempted a rare parliamentary procedure of “dividing” the bill into two parts that had related measures.

“If you vote against this bill, they’ll use everything that many of us have stood for for a long time – domestic violence, children, they added in as sweeteners – to try to get you to support this bill,” he said.

His suggestion for dividing the bill would have created one bill that “deals with statutory rape, child matters, domestic violence matters” and a second bill to contain the abortion provisions.

Michaux’s procedural move necessitated a prolonged examination of the rules before House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) decided to proceed with a vote.

However, the move failed when members of the majority voted against the idea.

One-sided debate

On its way back to the House from the Senate, the bill did have some substantial changes that Democrats lauded: A provision that would have stipulated only obstetrician/gynecologists be allowed to perform abortions had been amended out of the bill during the Senate vote Monday evening.

[pullquote_right]Like what you read on NC Health News? Help make it possible. Make a donation today. As little as $5/month will help keep us going![/pullquote_right]During the House debate on the entire bill, no Republicans spoke in favor of it; only Democrats spoke in opposition.

Rep Susan Fisher (D-Asheville) called rolling all of the provisions into one bill “the worst kind of cynical politics.”

McCrory noted in his press release that “we ensured that contact, including a simple phone call, would start a reasonable process that protects women’s health.”

He also signaled his approval of removing the restrictions on providers who could perform abortions.

“In addition, there are other provisions that protect children in the bill, something my administration sought,” McCrory wrote.

Opponents of the bill called out McCrory, who had promised during his campaign not to sign any other restrictions on abortion.

“A woman is more than capable of taking the time she needs to make her own personal medical decisions without the government forcing her to endure an unnecessary and potentially harmful delay,” wrote Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina in a press release.

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