RALEIGH — Incoming state House Speaker Thom Tillis assured abortion opponents Saturday that he would work to pass legislation to limit the number of abortions performed in North Carolina.
Tillis, a Mecklenburg County Republican, was one of 32 GOP state legislators who attended an N.C. Right to Life Prayer Breakfast on Saturday at the Holiday Inn Brownstone Hotel. Opponents of legalized abortion hope to get bills passed this year now that Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly.
"There's nothing more important than what you're doing here," Tillis told the crowd. "We hope you continue to encourage us, to be prayer warriors and to help save lives."
Tillis also told them, "We have an opportunity to save thousands of lives."
It's an opportunity that Barbara Holt, president of N.C. Right to Life, told the audience at the breakfast and at the afternoon rally and March for Life that they need to take.
"We now have a General Assembly headed by people who are pro-life," Holt said. "We have an opportunity to pass a woman's right to know."
Holt said the group's top legislative priority is to pass an informed consent bill that would require doctors to give women information on medical risks, abortion alternatives and fetal development before an abortion could be performed. She said such a law, similar to one passed in South Carolina, could lead to a sharp reduction in the more than 30,000 abortions performed annually in North Carolina.
A similar bill passed the state House in 1997 when Republicans were in the majority, but it died in the Democratic-controlled state Senate.
Holt said another priority will be to pass legislation to eliminate coverage for abortion from the state employees' health insurance plan and the health plans that cover students within the 17-campus University of North Carolina system.
But Holt told the crowd at Nash Square that they need to be vocal in lobbying legislators to get the bills passed. Afterward, more than 1,000 people, some holding signs saying "Abortion Kills Children," marched around downtown Raleigh to Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Andrea Mueller of Cary, who took part in the march, said she's optimistic that the legislation will pass. But she's also going to heed Holt's call to be involved.
"We need to get out there and be more active at the state level," Mueller said.
Melissa Reed, vice president of public policy with Planned Parenthood Health Systems in Raleigh, said she expects that Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue will veto any legislation that restricts reproductive rights.
But before it comes to that, she said, legislators would be making a mistake to deal with abortion legislation when they have to close a projected $3.7 billion revenue shortfall this year.
"They need to be focusing on the budget and creating jobs, not social issues," Reed said.
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