Politics & Government

NC House bill would increase abortion restrictions

Daniel White, 20, from Raleigh, waves to visitors of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences as White and more than 1,500 community members march down South Salisbury Street in support of pro-life during the March for Life in downtown Raleigh in this Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, file photo.
Daniel White, 20, from Raleigh, waves to visitors of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences as White and more than 1,500 community members march down South Salisbury Street in support of pro-life during the March for Life in downtown Raleigh in this Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, file photo. newsobserver.com

An N.C. House bill filed Wednesday would ban healthcare facilities owned by UNC and East Carolina University from performing abortions.

The change is one of a number of new abortion restrictions in House Bill 465, which is sponsored by four Republicans: Reps. Jacqueline Shaffer, Pat McElraft, Rena Turner and Susan Martin.

The bill would also increase the required waiting period before an abortion can be performed from 24 hours to 72 hours. The patient would be required to provide informed consent to her medical professional at least 72 hours before the procedure.

“It just gives a little more time for such an important decision as abortion,” McElraft said, adding that the 24-hour waiting period has prompted an estimated 2,500 mothers to change their minds.

The bill would ban doctors who aren’t licensed as an obstetrician or gynecologist from performing abortions. McElraft says that requirement is designed “to make it very safe for women.”

McElraft said state-run facilities like UNC shouldn’t provide abortions. “We wanted to make sure that taxpayers were not paying for abortions anymore,” she said.

Other provisions are similar to a Senate bill filed last week by Republican Sen. Warren Daniel. Senate Bill 604 would require that clinics have written agreements with hospitals in case of emergencies. Both bills would also impose new requirements on doctors who perform abortions or induce miscarriages after the 16th week of pregnancy to provide substantial documentation to the state, including an ultrasound image. After the 20th week of pregnancy, doctors would have to provide additional documentation justifying why continued pregnancy would threaten the woman’s life or gravely impair her health.

Abortions after 20 weeks have been illegal in North Carolina since 1973, except in cases where continuing the pregnancy would result in those circumstances.

Both bills would also give physicians the right to refuse to perform abortions if they have moral, ethical or religious objections to it.

Abortion rights groups oppose both bills, saying it would do nothing to protect women or children, while inserting the government into the doctor-patient relationship.

“This bill would ban abortions performed at two of North Carolina’s most renowned hospitals, UNC and ECU, limiting a woman’s ability to receive the very best care possible, and prohibit two of the finest medical schools in the the country from providing doctors with the training necessary to provide safe abortion care,” said Melissa Reed, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood.

A spokeswoman for ECU’s Brody School of Medicine said the school’s staff does not currently provide elective abortions, although it does perform the procedure when medically necessary. The school is affiliated with Vidant Medical Center but does not operate its own hospital.

Reed called the 72-hour waiting period an “arbitrary delay on a time sensitive procedure,” and she said the obstetrician/gynecologist requirement ignores “the rigorous training doctors currently undergo for an outpatient procedure.”

Opponents of abortion issued a statement Wednesday praising the bill. “HB 465 is a major step towards addressing the negligent and abusive practices endemic to the abortion industry and safeguarding North Carolina women,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national group Susan B. Anthony List. “We are encouraged by this women-led effort.”

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