(UPDATE: Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill July 29.)
Pro-life supporters celebrated a “huge victory” as the North Carolina Senate passed legislation they contend will make abortion safer for women, protect healthcare workers, prevent taxpayers from funding elective abortions and prohibit abortion for the purpose of sex selection.
Senate Bill 353, called the “Health and Safety Law Changes” or also known as the “Abortion Bill,” passed the Senate July 25 with a 32-13 vote. The bill heads to Gov. Pat McCrory, who has said he will sign the bill.
“This is a truly wonderful measure that will hold abortion doctors and clinics to standards similar to those of other surgical facilities,” said Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina.
“Planned Parenthood is calling for the governor to veto this bill, but we believe anyone concerned with women’s health should want the best conditions for patients undergoing this procedure.”
An hour-long debate preceded the Senate’s vote to concur with the House version, which included provisions similar to those OK’d earlier by the Senate in its “Faith, Family and Freedom Protection Act.” The governor had said he would veto the earlier bill unless it was modified to address concerns from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and worries that the measure would limit women’s access to abortion.
The final version of the bill, approved earlier by the House and sitting in a Senate committee until July 25, asks DHHS to increase health and safety regulations on abortion clinics without unduly limiting access. A provision in the bill requires that an abortion doctor be present during the entire surgical abortion process and that, in the case of a medicinal abortion, the doctor be on site when the first dose of an abortifacient is administered.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said the law will implement “common-sense and reasonable safety standards for abortion facilities.”
Supporters of the bill had pointed out in numerous debates that North Carolina has had problems with abortion clinics, citing recent violations in Charlotte and Fayetteville facilities, but abortion supporters insist the new law will lead to too many clinic closings and force women to undergo back alley abortions.
“It is important to us that you know we are not buying this disguise,” said Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Rocky Mount, according to a report in the Charlotte Observer. “Your agenda is clear – there is nothing in this bill that helps protect the rights of women’s health care.”
“This bill is coming back to us in a form that’s not fundamentally changed,” said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, in a report on Raleigh’s WRAL.com. “It’s still a deprivation of the rights of women.”
Responding to criticism of the bill, Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, said, “If you can show me something in there that is unreasonable, that is wrong, that hurts women, I will not vote for this … I'm just not finding it offensive."
Creech called the bill a victory for women’s health and life. He commended lawmakers for approving the measure despite protests from the abortion industry. He also expressed thanks for all of those who prayed and contacted their legislators on behalf of the legislation.
“This bill was not so much about prohibiting abortion, but about prohibiting an industry from operating under substandard conditions,” he said.
“Abortion clinics have far too long been given a privileged status. Those of us in the cause of life have known this for a long time. But more recently, clinics like the one where [Kermit] Gosnell in Philadelphia practiced and even some in our own state clearly show higher standards are definitely necessary. We look forward to the governor signing this new law.”
Gosnell was a physician in Philadelphia who was found guilty in May of three murder charges, along with other charges, in relation to an abortion clinic he ran.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – L.A. Williams is a writer for the Christian Action League of North Carolina. BR staff contributed to this story.)