North Carolina lawmakers joined other states in passing new restrictions on abortion providers, over the objection of reproductive-rights groups, and sent the measure to Republican Governor Pat McCrory, who supports it.
The Republican-led Senate passed the bill 32-13 today in Raleigh, the capital, after the House of Representatives approved it July 11. The measure lets the state make abortion clinics meet structural requirements similar to those for outpatient surgical centers -- a step opponents say may lead most to close.
With McCrory’s signature, North Carolina would follow a similar path as Texas, which this month mandated surgical-center standards that may be too costly or logistically difficult for most providers to meet. In recent years, similar rules have been blamed for clinic closings in Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“The only thing this bill does is to try in every legal way that’s conceivably possible to deny a woman the right to choose,” said Senator Floyd McKissick, a Democrat from Durham. “We’re trouncing upon the rights and the options on women in this state and in my mind, it’s unconstitutional.”
Backers said the measure is needed to protect women’s health by updating clinic standards that haven’t changed since 1995. Opponents said backers of the bill want to shut down abortion providers by imposing rules that aren’t medically justified.
The North Carolina bill also mandates the physical presence of a doctor during abortions, including those induced by drugs, bans the procedure based on gender and bars coverage by insurance plans provided by local governments and under President Barack Obama’s health-care law.
The North Carolina Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the North Carolina Obstetrical and Gynecological Society urged lawmakers to reject the bill, saying in a joint statement that it would interfere with the practice of medicine.
During a campaign debate, McCrory, 56, said he wouldn’t support new restrictions on abortion.
McCrory said July 10 he would veto a bill passed by the Senate July 3 unless “significant changes” were made. That measure, which included the abortion limits, blocked judges from applying foreign laws such as Islam’s Sharia code in ways that would be unconstitutional.
Modified abortion provisions were then added to a bill dealing with motorcycle safety. The Republican-led House passed it 74-41, and McCrory said July 12 he would sign that measure, if it reached his desk.
“The recent House version allows the medical professionals at the Department of Health and Human Services to write the rules which will ensure women’s safety,” the governor, first elected last year, said in a statement on his website.
The bill that McCrory threatened to veto said new rules for abortion clinics “shall ensure” that the standards are similar to those for surgical centers. The measure passed today gives the state more discretion, saying it “is authorized to apply any requirement” for surgical centers to the clinics.
The goal of the legislation is to shut down clinics and make the procedure harder to obtain, said Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro Choice North Carolina, which supports reproductive rights.
Only one of North Carolina’s abortion providers meets the outpatient surgical-center standards in the bill, putting all the others at risk of closing, said Representative Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat. Glazier, a lawyer, said he expects a quick legal challenge.
“There’s a pretty strong fear that it’s going to shut down most access to abortion services in the state,” Glazier said in an interview.
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