Under the Dome

Dome: Tearful tale of abortion clinic is questioned

June 10, 2011 

Democratic Rep. Alma Adams has accused a Republican colleague of stretching the truth during Wednesday's emotional floor debate over expansive new restrictions on abortion.

Rep. Pat McElraft fought tears as she recounted how her nephew took his girlfriend to Planned Parenthood 14 years ago seeking to end her pregnancy.

"She went to Planned Parenthood, asked them what her choices were," said McElraft, an Emerald Isle Republican. "They told her she would have a deformed baby because of her drug use, her only option was abortion. ...

"He went with her to what she describes as a very dark house. In that very dark house, a nurse attended to her. My nephew asked the nurse if she could at least see the ultrasound. The nurse said, 'I can't do that, I'll get fired.'"

Eventually, the nurse showed the couple the screen.

"It was a perfectly formed, little human baby," McElraft said. "They had lied to her about how far along she was. They had lied to her about the deformity of that baby. She left there immediately."

The couple married and that fetus is now a teenager, McElraft said.

House Bill 854, which includes a provision requiring abortion providers to show a patient the ultrasound of her baby, passed 71-48 in a largely party line vote.

Republicans have repeatedly flogged Planned Parenthood during the debate over new restrictions on abortion and passed a measure cutting all state funding for family planning and women's health services at the nonprofit agency.

Adams, a Greensboro Democrat, said Thursday that McElraft wasn't completely truthful about the role Planned Parenthood played in her family story.

In a letter to fellow House members, Adams wrote that McElraft failed to disclose that the incident took place in Georgia, not North Carolina. And the "dark house" where the couple went for an abortion was not a Planned Parenthood facility.

"In fact, her niece and nephew went to a Planned Parenthood in Augusta," Adams wrote. "Since they did not provide abortion care at that time, they referred her to another provider, not affiliated with Planned Parenthood in Atlanta.

"Because Planned Parenthood has been continuously defamed during this session, I wanted to make sure that in Rep. McElraft's telling of such an emotional story, that the members were not misled into believing that a Planned Parenthood facility would ever operate in such a manner. Also, I think it is extremely unfortunate that Rep. McElraft would use a story that happened in another state over a decade ago to conclude that changes must be made in North Carolina in 2011."

Freedom of speed?

Citing a little known state law that gives legislators immunity from self-incrimination for statements made at the General Assembly, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol said the agency cannot investigate a tale by Sen. Stan Bingham, a Republican from Denton, that Sen. Don East, a Republican from Pilot Mountain and a retired police officer, was driving on public roads at speeds more than twice the posted limit.

Sgt. Jorge Brewer, spokesman for the patrol, said troopers typically must witness a motorist speeding to write a ticket, except where there is an investigation into an accident involving death or serious injury.

But even if the patrol were interested in ticketing East, who a fellow legislator said Monday had taken him on a 145 mph joyride in a muscle car on U.S. 52, Brewer pointed to general statute 120-9, which reads: "Freedom of speech. The members shall have freedom of speech and debate in the General Assembly, and shall not be liable to impeachment or question, in any court or place out of the General Assembly, for words therein spoken."

The law originated in 1787. The basic effect of the law has not changed: No legislator can be prosecuted in state court for statements made on the floor of the state House or Senate, even if that legislator effectively confesses to be party to a crime.

Compiled by staff writers Michael Biesecker and Rob Christensen

mbieseck@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4559

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