After clashing with Republican legislators by issuing two vetoes last week, Gov. Pat McCrory said late Wednesday that he will sign a measure to triple the waiting period for an abortion.
The bill is headed to the governor’s desk after a final 71-43 N.C. House vote – largely along party lines – on Wednesday approved several provisions added by the Senate that don’t relate to abortion.
McCrory had avoided media questions in recent weeks about whether he’d veto the bill.
Late Wednesday, McCrory issued a statement that said: “I will sign this bill.”
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He said the bill includes “some very positive progress” that will “protect women’s health.”
Opponents of the bill say McCrory should honor a pledge he made during his 2012 campaign. During a debate, he was asked what “further restrictions on abortions” he’d be willing to sign. His one-word answer was “none.”
In 2013, McCrory signed a bill that added new regulations for clinics and limited insurance coverage for government employees seeking abortions. At the time, he said that bill didn’t violate his campaign promise.
Planned Parenthood, which advocates for women’s rights to choose an abortion, had said it would deliver petitions to McCrory’s office Thursday with 16,000 signatures opposed to the latest bill.
“Gov. McCrory promised to veto new abortion restrictions, and North Carolina women believed him,” Alison Kiser, a spokeswoman for the group, said Wednesday. “Going back on his word by allowing these new restrictions to become law would represent a fundamental betrayal of voters’ trust.”
The bill extends the waiting period for abortions from one day to three, adds inspection requirements for clinics and dictates the types of doctors who can perform abortions. Supporters say it’s a “strong pro-life bill” that is needed to protect women.
“House Bill 465 is a major victory that will protect women and save the lives of unborn children in North Carolina,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the conservative N.C. Values Coalition. She called on McCrory to sign the bill “as quickly as possible.”
Opponents said the change will make it harder to get an abortion. “Will there be fewer abortions?” said Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat. “Hardly – they’ll simply occur elsewhere, in the back alleys and dark rooms.”
One of the Senate’s changes involved taking provisions from a Democratic senator’s legislation to clarify who can be charged with statutory rape or sexual offenses. Senate Republicans added those and other unrelated provisions to the abortion bill, a move strongly opposed by Democrats in both chambers.
“To me, adding these extra provisions to a bill ... is the worst kind of cynical politics, and I urge the body not to concur,” said Rep. Susan Fisher, an Asheville Democrat.
Democrats say the additions force them to vote against tougher laws on sex crimes – a vote that could be used against them when election season arrives.
“What they’re doing is really making campaign fodder out of this bill,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat.
Michaux made a motion to handle the provisions unrelated to abortion as a separate vote, but the request failed 47-68 after Republicans said that division would be an unprecedented move.
“There is no mechanism by which we can agree with part of the bill and not agree with part of the bill,” Speaker Tim Moore said.
And Rep. Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, downplayed Democrats’ concerns about “campaign fodder,” saying he’s often had to oppose his own legislation when it got attached to something else.
“I had to vote against my own bill, but I took credit for it, and nobody knew the difference,” he said.
McCrory’s late Wednesday statement seemed to address the mixture of issues in the bill. He was not available for comment.
“Working with House and Senate members, we ensured that contact, including a simple phone call, would start a reasonable process that protects women’s health, and we also more clearly and rationally defined medical training and qualifications to ensure there will be no further restrictions on access,” the governor’s statement said. “In addition, there are other provisions that protect children in the bill, something my administration sought. Therefore, I will sign this bill.”
Major provisions of House Bill 465
▪ Increases to 72 hours from 24 hours the waiting period for women who voluntarily consent to an abortion.
▪ Requires annual inspection by DHHS of clinics where abortions are performed and publication of the results, with some exceptions. Prohibits clinics from employing persons under 18.
▪ Requires physicians who perform abortions other than in an emergency to be board certified or certifiable in obstetrics and gynecology and to report certain information to DHHS, with authorization for physicians who possess sufficient training based on established medical standards in safe abortion care, abortion complications and miscarriage management.
▪ Clarifies that an assault is committed “in the presence of a minor” when the minor can see or hear the assault.
▪ Defines statutory rape as engaging in a sexual act with a person who is 15 years old or younger. Current law definition says “13-, 14- or 15-years-old.”
▪ Permits judges to impose conditions of pretrial release in domestic violence cases to protect persons the defendant has dated or is dating.
▪ Makes administrative changes aimed at improving collection and payment of child support to families.
▪ Makes it an aggravating sentencing factor to knowingly commit an offense that is seen or heard by a minor who is not an accomplice to the offense.
▪ Requires registered sex offenders to stay away from premises frequented by minors if the offenders committed federal crimes or crimes in other states that are substantially similar to sex offenses under state law.
▪ Creates a Maternal Mortality Review Committee within DHHS to study and recommend ways to prevent deaths resulting from complications of pregnancy or childbirth.