North Carolina pro-life advocates may have to wait a little longer for their “Christmas in July” after the state's public health regulators told lawmakers on Tuesday (July 9) that House Bill 695 left too many unanswered questions and needed a little more work.
The bill, also known as the Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act, passed the N.C. Senate July 3 after the bill was amended that day to include abortion restrictions. Initially a measure to prevent foreign law, such as Sharia law, from being applied in the state, the bill now includes protection of health care workers, limits on abortion funding, prohibitions for sex-selective abortion and a provision that requires doctors to be present during an entire abortion procedure or when abortifacients are administered.
Since approved by the Senate, the bill has drawn harsh criticism from abortion advocates, while large numbers of pro-life supporters wearing blue also have gathered at the state capitol in Raleigh. Lawmakers hope to work out concerns and move the bill to the governor’s desk this week so it can be signed into law.
Advocates continue to call on Christians to contact their representatives this week in support of the bill.
“We call it Christmas in July, but the gift won’t be completely wrapped until it’s passed by the House and signed by the governor,” Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, said after the bill passed the Senate.
“We urge Christians to let their representatives know that they support these measures that are bound to save lives,” he added. “They will certainly hear from abortion supporters, so we cannot afford to be silent.”
Last week, abortion supporters described the bill as an attack on women’s rights, while advocates of the bill said the goal was to make the procedure safer for women.
Senators Ellie Kinnaird, (D-Orange) and Angela Bryant (D-Halifax) argued that the state had enjoyed four decades of safe abortions, but Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Franklin) read a Charlotte Observer article detailing multiple problems at a Queen City abortion clinic that led to it being shut down twice in six years. He also cited problems at a Fayetteville facility.
Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke) pointed out the portion of the bill that would require clinics to operate under standards similar to those of ambulatory surgical centers was consistent with recommendations resulting from the Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic case in Pennsylvania. Gosnell, who ran an abortion clinic, was found guilty for the death of three infants outside the womb.
“We’re not here today taking away the rights of women,” Daniel said. “What we’re taking away is the rights of an industry to have substandard conditions.”
Opponents of the bill said abortion clinics are already highly regulated and that the bill would effectively shut down all but one clinic in the state and lead to “back alley abortions.”
Sen. Phil Berger (R-Guilford) said the bill was not an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, but it simply included a number of “common sense processes to protect women and to protect public health” and that anyone interested in safe abortions had nothing to fear from the bill.
“We can stick our heads in the sand and act like problems don’t exist,” he said. “We can pretend that everything is just hunky-dory out there, but it is not.
“We are being warned by the results of the Charlotte clinic and by the results in Fayetteville that there are problems out there. … We have an obligation to protect the health of the women that go to these clinics and make sure the rules and safety procedures are the best they can be.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – BR staff updated and edited this story.)