By Rose Hoban
By a 5-3 margin, justices on the U.S. Supreme Court overruled a Texas law restricting the size and configuration of abortion clinics. The bill, known as HB2, has resulted in the closure of about half of Texas abortion clinics since it was passed and enacted in 2013, mandated that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that facilities providing the procedure come up to standards of ambulatory surgical centers.
North Carolina lawmakers have not passed similar legislation, known as TRAP (for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider) laws. In her concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that such laws, “do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion.”
“The idea behind a TRAP law is that it’s something you wouldn’t do for another procedure,” said NARAL /Pro-Choice North Carolina head Tara Romano. “There’s no legislation that says this is what we’re going to need when someone gets a colonoscopy.”
Pro-choice advocates point out, however, that some North Carolina proposals have been similar to those adopted by Texas.[pullquote_right]In 2004, North Carolina’s abortion rate was 16.0 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. In 2013 (the most recent year of data), the rate was 10.1.[/pullquote_right]“[In 2013], the Senate started with a bill that was not substantially different from what Texas enacted; the standards that just got struck down,” said ACLU policy director Sarah Preston, referring to a 2013 measure that would have required that clinics meet ambulatory surgical clinic standards.
That bill was substantially changed, eventually requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to review and rework many of its regulations concerning abortion clinics. It also restricts sex-selective abortions and forbids publicy funded health plans from covering the procedure.
What remained after that review was an increased regimen of abortion-clinic inspections with state funding for more DHHS inspectors.
Last year, the legislature passed a bill requiring women to wait 72 hours before they can obtain an abortion. In addition, the Women and Children’s Protection Act requires physicians performing abortions after 16 weeks gestation to send their notes and copies of ultrasounds to the Department of Health and Human Services for review.
An earlier regulatory act, the 2011 “A Woman’s Right to Know” Act, requires the “voluntary and informed consent” of a woman before an abortion can be performed. Specific conditions must be met for consent to be considered “voluntary and informed” under state law. Providers are required to orally inform patients of nearly a dozen points of information in the 24 hours before the procedure.
All those restrictions remain standing in North Carolina, and no laws will be repealed as a result of Monday’s decision.
“It would stop us from doing that same regulation, but it we don’t have anything like that in our law today,” said Rep. Paul Stam (R-Apex), who has championed bills limiting abortions at the General Assembly.
Stam said he had not yet read the ruling, but was dismissive.
“For some reason, whenever abortion is the subject of a Supreme Court case, they just put their finger in the air and make a new law,” he said. “The women of Texas will not be as safe as they were yesterday.”
Pro-choice advocates celebrated at a rally in front of the residence of Gov. Pat McCrory.
“The Supreme Court decision will help will politicians think twice about putting these [kinds of laws] through,” Romano said. “The Supreme Court said, ‘We recognize that these are needless laws.’
“You have to do more than say that they’re for the health and safety of a woman, you have to prove it.”