North Carolina’s 72-Hour Forced Waiting Period Law Moves Forward

A bill that would increase North Carolina's mandated waiting period for abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours received final approval Tuesday in the state's GOP-led senate.

A bill that would increase North Carolina's mandated waiting period for abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours received final approval Tuesday in the state's GOP-led senate. Shutterstock

A bill that would increase North Carolina’s mandated waiting period for abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours received final approval Tuesday in the state’s GOP-led senate, setting the stage for lawmakers in the house to force the governor’s hand on a campaign promise not to create more abortion restrictions.

HB 465 would mandate that women wait 72 hours before ending a pregnancy, tripling the 24-hour waiting period under current state law. The forced waiting period legislation includes other provisions, such as clinic reporting requirements.

The Republican bill would also prohibit any department at East Carolina University or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from permitting an employee to perform or supervise the performance of an abortion as part of the employee’s official duties. The prohibition would make it virtually impossible for medical students at the two universities to learn how to perform abortion care.

Physicians who provide abortions past 16 weeks’ gestation would be required to document the probable age of the fetus and report that information, including an ultrasound, to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Lawmakers did accept an amendment that changes a requirement that only physicians certified as OB-GYNs could provide abortion care. The new legislative language requires that physicians who provide abortion care must have “sufficient training based on established medical standards in safe abortion care.”

The bill passed by a vote of 32-16, mostly along partisan lines. Two Republicans, Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Hendersonville) and Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Southport), joined Democrats in voting against the measure.

“This legislature should not be in the business of creating hurdles to overcome,” Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham) said, reported the Charlotte News & Observer.

Sen. Angela Bryant (D-Nash) said that she opposed the bill because there is no documented health reason for extending the waiting period. “We continue to ignore the best way to do away with abortions, which is to provide comprehensive, contraceptive services,” Bryant said, reported WRAL.

Medical research suggests that waiting periods are detrimental to women’s health. At least one study concluded that any delay in a woman terminating a pregnancy increased the health risk and cost of abortion care.

Once the decision is made to terminate a pregnancy, a pregnant person should be provided with abortion care as soon as possible, according to recommendations by the World Health Organization.

Republicans have argued the increased waiting period is needed to ensure that women give full consideration to the decision they are making. No Republican proponents of the bill spoke in favor of the legislation during floor debate.

The bill must now return to the house, where lawmakers will vote on whether to accept the senate’s version of the bill that includes several amendments unrelated to abortion.

If there is not enough support for the senate version, the bill will head to a conference committee consisting of members from both the senate and house, which will reconcile the differences between the versions passed by the two chambers.

During the floor debate, Democrats opposed to the measure noted that during the 2012 gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) made a campaign promise that he would not sign any legislation creating more abortion restrictions. McCrory has remained vague on his position on the legislation.

“I’m going to let that process work out,” McCrory previously told reporters, reported WRAL. “It’s very difficult for me to comment on bills that have yet to be passed.”

Both chambers of the legislature have passed the bill with veto-proof majorities.

There are 26 states that mandate waiting periods for pregnant people seeking an abortion. The majority of these require a 24-hour waiting period, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Lawmakers in several states have introduced bills this year to create or lengthen waiting periods. North Carolina would join four states—South Dakota, Utah, Missouri, and Oklahoma—with 72-hour waiting periods. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill into law this month that increased Oklahoma’s forced waiting period from 24 to 72 hours.