By PATRICIA L. GUILFOYLE, Catholic News Service | Published July 18, 2013
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS)—Pro-life supporters are encouraged by the progress of pro-life bills through the North Carolina General Assembly, but they continue to lobby state leaders even as Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has signaled his partial support for the legislation.
Bills approved by the Republican-controlled legislature would update regulations for abortion facilities, ban abortions for sex selection and expand conscience protections to cover all health care personnel, not just doctors as it stands now.
Republican legislators have been negotiating over the past couple of weeks with McCrory to soften some provisions in the pro-life legislation to avoid his threatened veto.
“Our hard work on behalf of the most defenseless among us is not over. We are so very close to passing our pro-life provisions which will save the lives of many unborn children. Please press on knowing that the babies have no one to speak for them except us,” said Barbara Holt, director of North Carolina Right to Life, in a statement.
Bishops Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte and Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh have supported all of the pro-life proposals, calling them “significant protections for the unborn in North Carolina.” Through their public policy arm, Catholic Voice North Carolina, the bishops urged Catholics to contact their state legislators and McCrory.
The proposed legislation would require the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to adopt procedures making abortion clinics conform to similar safety standards as ambulatory surgery centers—the first regulatory overhaul for abortion clinics since 1994. It would ensure that abortion clinics are not allowed to operate with unsafe or unsanitary conditions, like a Charlotte clinic.
That clinic was shut down for five days in May after state health inspectors found that the facility was improperly administering chemical abortions, among other health code violations. It remains open despite a history of violations over the past 14 years and the fact at least nine women were sent to the emergency room after botched abortions at the clinic.
The measures also would:
- Require an abortion doctor to be in the same room as the patient throughout the abortion to prevent so-called “webcam abortions,” whereby a staff member who is not a doctor administers abortion-inducing drugs and no physician is present.
- Limit abortion funding under health insurance plans through the federal health insurance exchange or by local governments, so means taxpayers would not be asked to fund abortion services for state and local government employees. An exception would allow abortions to protect the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.
- Require the state’s public school health education curriculum to mention abortion as a preventable risk for later premature births.
- List on the state’s website resources for women to seek help in cases of poor prenatal diagnoses.
Recently legislators combined these various bills and tacked them onto other, unrelated pieces of legislation—H.B. Bill 695 and S.B. Bill 353—in an effort to ensure their passage after seeing the legislative maneuvers to keep abortion restrictions from initially passing in Texas.
The House bill, the Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act, forbids any foreign laws, such as sharia law, from being applied to North Carolina citizens. The Senate bill, Health and Safety Law Changes Act, is about motorcycle safety.
During negotiations with McCrory, legislators dropped a requirement for abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of their clinic. They also spelled out in more detail that the review of abortion clinic regulations by the state’s health department should “protect patient privacy, provide quality assurance and ensure that patients with complications receive the necessary medical attention, while not unduly restricting access.”
One sponsor of the pro-life legislation is Republican Sen. Warren Daniel, who has been looking into the violations at A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte and had hoped the public attention could push the legislation forward.
The measures “are about protecting women’s health,” Daniel said. “Though they contain slight differences in wording, the safety of abortion clinics is the ultimate goal. I think it is a good thing that we have been able to focus on the serious deficiencies of clinics across our state, and to have a thorough debate about how to best update clinic regulations that have not been reviewed for 20 years.”
In a statement issued late July 12, after both the House and Senate had concluded most of their discussions on the bills, McCrory said if the General Assembly sends him the Senate-approved Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act, he’ll veto it.
But he said he would sign the Health and Safety Law Changes Act if it reaches his desk because it “allows the medical professionals at the Department of Health and Human Services to write the rules which will ensure women’s safety. I want to thank those who worked on an improved bill which will better protect women while not further limiting access.”