North Carolina House approves abortion legislation

July 11, 2013 8:04:08 PM PDT
A divided North Carolina House has approved abortion rules supporters say will make the procedure safer for women but opponents argue is a thinly-veiled attempt to shut down clinics and curb reproductive rights.

The chamber voted 74-41 Thursday after an impassioned three-hour debate over directing regulators to increase standards for abortion clinics and requiring doctors to remain present for an entire surgical abortion. The physician also must be present when a woman takes the first dose for a chemically induced abortion.

The measure also would prohibit gender-selective abortions, curb abortion insurance coverage and expand conscientiously objection to participate in abortions.

After the vote, the Speaker of the House congratulated the gallery for being respectful during debate, but one woman yelled "You don't respect us," which prompted him to clear the gallery.

Opponents say they were appalled but not surprised after the House passed the controversial bill.

"We're going backwards," said Belinda Smith.

Dozens of women with Planned Parenthood showed up Thursday morning with motorcycle helmets. They were trying to get the attention of lawmakers who gutted a motorcycle safety bill and tacked on restrictive abortion legislation.

"I think it is making North Carolina a laughing stock and it's a shame really that they would continue to deceive and be so disengenious," said Planned Parenthood's Melissa Reed.

Outside members of Moveon.org marched to Gov. McCrory's office demanding a veto of the bill and delivering petitions with more than 10,000 signatures.

As the session quickly comes to a close, Republicans are running out of time to pass the legislation. They revised it after McCrory threatened to veto a similar Senate bill.

"You can't introduce new bills now," said Barbara Holt, with NC Right to Life. "There are crossover deadlines that had to be met back in May, and so this is the only way you can do something to accommodate the governor."

Holt says the bill needs to be passed to protect women from unsafe abortions and sub-par clinics, and supporters say it can't wait any longer.

"Whether we agree with their choice or not, these women do deserve modern medical care and right now that's not the standard that's in place," said bill supporter Greg Sleigh.

The proposed legislation approved by the House has some changes from a Senate bill approved last week. Republicans tweaked the bill Wednesday after Governor Pat McCrory threatened a veto. The Governor said he is not in favor of a change that limits abortion access, but is expected to consider laws to increase the health and safety protections for women.

The changes were tacked onto a bill about motorcycle safety. Last week, senators added the issue on to a bill about Islamic Sharia law. Critics call the maneuvers a sneak attack on abortion rights. Even McCrory expressed his unhappiness, saying such last minute tactics were the way the Democrats did business.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos said Tuesday the Senate requirements were too vague and potentially extremely expensive for clinics to follow and suggested that increasing funds for more frequent clinic inspections could improve clinic safety.

The bill approved Wednesday authorizes the department to apply standards for surgery centers to standards for clinics to address on-site recovery, protect patient privacy, and ensure patients with complications receive necessary medical attention "while not unduly restricting access."

Critics of the Senate bill said it would cause the shutdown of abortion clinics. They said Thursday the House changes would still have the same effect.

The bill now returns to the Senate, which passed a similar bill last week but Gov. Pat McCrory later threatened a veto upon without changes. The House altered the measure.

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