Most North Carolinians think decisions about reproductive health care should be left to a woman, not politicians. But the General Assembly isnt listening to its constituents. In spite of public opinion, the leadership in Raleigh is on a mission to ban abortion care in our state.
So far this session, legislators have introduced seven bills restricting access to abortion and reproductive health care. Two of the most egregious are Senate Bill 308, an amendment to the Womans Right to Know Act, and House Bill 716, a ban on sex-selection abortions.
These bills aim to disempower North Carolina women and the medical professionals who care for their reproductive health. If they pass, these laws will effectively ban abortion care in many areas of our state, allowing North Carolina to join the ranks of Mississippi, North Dakota and Kansas.
SB 308 is a Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) bill designed to increase the cost and limit the accessibility of abortion in North Carolina. Extreme conservatives may claim that TRAP laws protect womens health and safety, but in fact these laws have no medical justification. Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States. Regulation of abortion providers is not about protecting womens health, its about reducing an already limited supply of abortion providers.
HB 716 would fine doctors up to $100,000 for performing an abortion for which sex-selection is a significant factor in a womans decision. This bill cleverly disguises anti-choice rhetoric beneath a presumed concern for gender preference.
If lawmakers wish to address gender inequality, they should support measures like Rep. Deborah Rosss Equal Pay Act and Rep. Alma Adam and Minority Leader Larry Halls Healthy Families and Workplaces Act. A ban on sex-selection abortion will do nothing to address the legitimate problems of gender-preference and sex discrimination. It will simply make doctors less likely to perform abortions for the women who need them.
These proposed regulations are attempts to make abortion care more difficult to obtain. They seek to achieve this goal by punishing the doctors who perform abortions and the clinics where they practice so that they will be unable to continue offering this service. Inevitably, these bills are likely to exacerbate the abortion-provider shortage, eliminating abortion access in entire regions of North Carolina.
These bills threaten the health and safety of North Carolina women and disproportionately affect rural women, who already face more barriers to reproductive health care than their urban neighbors. It is already extremely difficult for women living in rural areas to obtain abortion care, with 86 percent of North Carolina counties having no abortion provider.
The extreme, anti-woman majority in the General Assembly is working tirelessly to make it impossible for North Carolinas most underserved population to seek reproductive health care services. And we can be sure they wont be satisfied until abortion in North Carolina is legal in name only.
Suzanne Buckley is executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina