NEWSFLASH: North Carolina Adds a Sour Note to Freedom’s Ring

3513800734_1c8dee5eebWhile July 4th weekend and the exuberant celebrations of America and freedom that come with it, is rapidly approaching, North Carolina has become the third state in the past week to try to severely limit women’s reproductive freedom.

On Wednesday, the North Carolina state senate committee passed a bill that would restrict abortions by making clinics meet expensive requirements. The abortion restrictions were added on to House Bill 695—which was originally designed just to make Sharia law in family courts illegal (as if anyone was really worried about that).

North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory criticized the Senate Republicans for rushing the bill through without paying attention to proper procedure. He said

Regardless of what party is in charge or what important issue is being discussed, the process must be appropriate and thorough.

During his 2012 campaign, McCrory pledged not to sign any bills restricting abortion into law. He has not said if he will sign this one, although it could still become law, due to the Republican’s veto-proof numbers in both chambers of the legislatures.

The anti-abortion language was added at the last minute and pulled from various other pieces of legislation. While lobbyists from pro-life groups, such as N.C. Right to Life and the N.C. Family Policy Council were at the meeting where the restrictions were added to HB 695, but groups opposed to the bill were not informed that it was being debated. Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt said that the sneaky way the Republicans introduced abortion language into the bill disrespected its opponents and North Carolina women:

You’re going to win this debate and feel really good about yourself because you great big gray-haired men beat up on three women [there are only three women senators in the state legislature]. Let’s see what you do with 10,000 of them [speaking of possible protesters].

The executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, Suzanne Buckley, said that North Carolina Republicans were trying to “pull a Texas” in their strategy to pass the bill “under cover of legislative darkness”.
HB 695 would limit North Carolina women’s access to abortion in several ways:
—It would prevent insurance obtained from the state health exchange from covering abortion.
—Physicians would be required to be present for both surgical and medical abortions—the latter only require taking pills—and doctors who oppose abortions for religious reasons would be protected from having to help assist with them.
—All abortion clinics would have to meet the (unnecessary) standards of ambulatory surgical centers. Currently, only one clinic in the state meets those standards.

HB 695 is about more than just making it difficult for women to receive abortions. The requirements that clinics that provide abortion would have to meet can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and many clinics, including four run by Planned Parenthood, may be forced to shut down—limiting women’s access to other essential health services such as cancer screenings and STI testing, let alone getting birth control. After Texas cut its family planning budget by two-thirds and over 50 clinics had to shut down, the estimated cost to taxpayers was more than $200 million due to unplanned pregnancies. That doesn’t even begin to take into consideration the cost, both material and emotional, of women who get STIs or cannot receive necessary cancer screenings. It is clear that forcing women’s health clinics, whether they provide abortion or not, to shut down hurts all women who can’t afford private medical care. While Republicans in the Senate claim that the restrictions are to protect women, the evidence shows that the opposite will happen.

Photo of North Carolina state capitol from Flickr user jbtouhy under license from Creative Commons 2.0.