NC lawmakers consider abortion restrictions


Proposed legislation would impose a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could receive an abortion and also require a doctor describe an ultrasound of the fetus.

North Carolina is one of 16 states that don't require counseling before an abortion, and half require women to wait between counseling and the abortion procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research organization that supports abortion rights. Ten states require a pre-abortion ultrasound that provides a visual image of the developing child's features.

The proposed bill has sparked heated debate on the always-controversial abortion issue.

At a House judiciary committee hearing Wednesday, supporters told lawmakers the additional requirements would give women a fuller picture of what's at stake, including the approximate age of the developing child and the medical risks of an abortion technique.

Danelle Hallenbeck of Angier said she had an abortion in 1993 and has been burdened ever since by not knowing how long she'd been pregnant beforehand and never discussing with a doctor what she should expect.

"The only words that he said to me -- while he was doing the procedure -- was: 'You're further along than we thought.' Those words haunt me to this day," Hallenbeck said.

But Melissa Reed with Planned Parenthood said Thursday that the law would only add to the stress women contemplating ending their pregnancy face.

"This really puts the government in the examining room with the woman and her doctor. This 24-hour [rule] puts a real burden on women who may already be juggling daycare, childcare," she offered.

Planned Parenthood and its supporters, along with various physicians, are asking people to contact their lawmakers and remind them that informed consent is already required in North Carolina.

"Women in North Carolina are already required to receive an ultrasound prior to having an abortion. However, this bill would mandate that the screen be facing them, and that they can avert their eyes, but they'd still be forced to listen," said Reed.

While measure would not require the woman to watch, it would require her to sign a document acknowledging that the image was described to her by a provider.

The woman's signed certification would have to remain on file for at least seven years. Providers who fail to follow the proposed regulations would be liable to lawsuits.

Dr. David Grimes of Research Triangle Park said he performs abortions as part of his medical practice. He says the required 24-hour delay after a woman seeks out an abortion provider will add costs and increase the number of unplanned births.

"This bill will hurt everyone financially, but especially women who are poor and live in rural parts of the state," Grimes said.

But Rep. Ruth Samuelson, one of the sponsors of the bill, says it is not intended to make it more difficult for a woman to obtain an abortion.

"It's to make sure that when she goes in, she has all the information she needs to make an informed decision," she said.

The judiciary committee could vote on the bill as early as next week.

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