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The governor’s vow and the abortion bill

Pat McCrory knew this test was coming.

He knew, as a candidate for governor last fall, that the General Assembly in Raleigh would continue to have a Republican majority, and that those lawmakers would send the next governor legislation that pushed North Carolina to the far right. It was a concern for moderate voters, and it was why, last October, McCrory was asked in a gubernatorial debate what further restrictions on abortion he would agree to sign.

“None,” he said, simply.

Now a test has arrived. On Wednesday, the N.C. Senate passed a sweeping and deceitful bill that would restrict abortions by placing expensive licensing requirements on clinics and making it more difficult for doctors to perform procedures. The legislation, which now goes to the House, is similar to measures in other states that circumvent the law with provisions designed to put abortion clinics out of business.

The N.C. bill was introduced and delivered in the way that lawmakers do things when they’re afraid what the people might think – without public notice, late in the day, on a holiday week. Hundreds of protesters made it to Raleigh anyway Wednesday, but in reality, one voice might matter more than any. It’s the one that sent a clear message to North Carolinians last fall about how many restrictions like this should become law.

None, our governor-to-be said.

McCrory could try now to wiggle out of that declarative statement. He could, as Republicans did this week, duck what they’re really doing by saying the bill was about women’s health and safe clinics. One lawmaker, Sen. Warren Daniel of Morganton, mentioned as evidence a Charlotte abortion clinic that was temporarily shut down this year because it improperly administered a drug.

But that case illustrates how regulations already are working well. The Charlotte clinic was closed, then reopened after it corrected the issue and promised to submit a quality improvement plan to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Additional regulations are unnecessary, and they likely would endanger women’s health by giving them fewer places to get safe abortions and services such as cancer screenings and other tests.

McCrory also could dodge his debate promise on a technicality. If the House doesn’t reject the bill, as it should, the measure could become law without the governor’s signature. That would allow McCrory to avoid defying Republicans while maintaining that he signed no abortion restrictions into law. Surely, he thinks more of North Carolina’s voters than to insult them with that kind of verbal bait-and-switch.

So far, the governor is saying little about the bill. His only public comments came in a statement Wednesday that expressed concern about the manner in which Republicans sprung this bill on the state. That’s encouraging, but he did not comment on the legislation itself.

Then again, he already has done so, last October. There was no semantic sidestepping then. No hedging. Just a simple answer to a critical question.

None, Pat McCrory said.

Now North Carolina finds out what that word means.

Is it how many abortion restrictions our governor will allow to become law?

Or is it how much trust the people should have in his word?

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