The judiciary panel approved a substitute measure Wednesday on a party-line vote in favor of Republicans. Democrats voting no argued the changes would still result in abortion clinics closing and criticized the process that led to the committee vote with no advance notice.
GOP backers of the abortion bill tell ABC11 that McCrory approved the new language after threatening earlier Wednesday to veto the bill if it reached his desk.
In a statement, McCrory's office said "unless significant changes and clarifications are made addressing our concerns that were clearly communicated by DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, Governor Pat McCrory will veto the existing bill, HB 695, if it is passed by the House and Senate."
During his campaign, McCrory said he would not sign any bills that impose additional restrictions on access to abortions for women. At a news conference earlier this week, he left open the possibility he might sign legislation that protects the health and safety of women seeking abortions.
McCrory called that a fine line, and expressed his concerns that House Bill 695 crosses into imposing additional access restrictions.
He has also been critical of the way the Senate quietly added new abortion rules to another bill during a late night session last week - saying: "When the Democrats were in power, this is the way they did business. It was not right then and it is not right now."
At a hearing Tuesday on HB 695 held by the House Health Care Committee, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos told lawmakers she's concerned that the wording of the proposed new bill is too vague and she called for a "thorough review of what's in place" as the debate over the bill moves forward.
She said there are already many rules regulating abortion clinics, but her department has few resources for inspections, and as a result, they're looked at only every 3-5 years.
The sweeping abortion bill passed last week in the North Carolina Senate would require abortion clinics to meet the operating standards of ambulatory surgery centers and require physicians be present when the procedure is performed. The bill would also prohibit gender-selective abortions.
Supporters of the bill say it is not an attempt to block access to clinics. At Tuesday's House hearing, Republican Conference Leader Ruth Samuelson addressed that issue with Wos. "The goal is safety. The goal is not to shut down clinics," she said.
In his statement, McCrory thanked lawmakers "who have been working with the administration to ensure that the bill's goals and objectives are clearly to protect the health and the safety of women. The governor believes that major portions of the bill are of sound principal and value."
He also called on lawmakers to focus on passing legislation that will work to grow the North Carolina economy.
The bill's next stop is the full House.