North Carolina GOP Takes Two-Pronged Approach to Restricting Abortion Rights

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North Carolina GOP Takes Two-Pronged Approach to Restricting Abortion Rights

Nina Liss-Schultz

State lawmakers have in the past week introduced bills that would extend the state's mandatory waiting period before an abortion and require physicians to give detailed reports on later abortions to the state.

Lawmakers in North Carolina have in the past week introduced two bills that would create a number of restrictions on abortion access in the state, including through an extended waiting period and requiring physicians to give detailed reports on later abortions to the state.

One bill, SB 604, was introduced in late March by state Sen. Warren Daniel (R), who told the Indy Week that his motivation was to restrict abortion rights, as do “pro-life legislators in every legislative session.”

His proposal, called the “Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015,” includes a series of targeted regulations of abortion provider (TRAP) provisions, among them a requirement that abortion clinics have a written transfer agreement with a hospital in case of an emergency.

Transfer agreement laws have forced clinics to close in other states, including Ohio, where abortion clinics have been unable to find a hospital willing to enter into an agreement, opening them up to the revocation of their operating license by the state.

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The Ohio transfer agreement law is particularly restrictive because it specifies that the agreement must be made with a privately owned hospital, many of which have religious affiliations and are opposed to reproductive rights.

The North Carolina bill would further tighten the later abortion law that the state currently has on the books; that law outlaws abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for the life and health of the pregnant person. SB 604 would require physicians who perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy to report to the state their justification and reasoning for the procedure.

The bill would also require that physicians who perform an abortion after the 16th week of pregnancy report similar data to the state, including the method used to determine the fetus’s gestational age and an ultrasound image.

“SB 604 will make it more difficult for patients to receive the quality care they deserve,” said NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina in a statement regarding the proposed legislation. “On the surface these regulations may seem mundane, but in reality, their purpose is to block women’s access to abortion.”

A second anti-abortion bill, HB 465, was introduced Wednesday by four Republicans in the state house.

The house bill is in many ways similar to SB 604 and includes identical language on physician reporting requirements for abortions after 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy.

HB 465 would also change the state’s “informed consent to abortion” law, which currently requires that a pregnant person meet with their physician at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed.

The legislation proposed Wednesday would increase that waiting period to 72 hours.

“Mandatory delays such as these create additional burdens for North Carolina women, especially women in rural areas who have to travel many hours to reach a health-care provider, and for women who do not have the resources to take extra time off work or pay for child care,” said NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. “Mandatory-delay laws such as this endanger women’s health by creating unnecessary burdens that can impede earlier, and therefore safer, abortion care.”

The bill would also ban doctors who aren’t licensed as obstetricians or gynecologists from performing abortions, and would ban health-care facilities owned by the University of North Carolina or the East Carolina University systems from performing abortions.

State Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret), one of the bill’s sponsors, told reporters that state-run facilities shouldn’t be offering abortion services.

“We wanted to make sure that taxpayers were not paying for abortions anymore,” she said.

Republicans dominate both chambers of the North Carolina legislature, with a 34-16 advantage in the senate and a 74-41 majority in the house.