RALEIGH — Students would have to be taught that abortion increases the risk for subsequent premature births under a bill a Senate committee approved Wednesday.
There are conflicting studies about whether that is true. But the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force included that recommendation in its list of issues for the legislature to consider this session. A committee of the task force heard from doctors on both sides of the issue in November.
If enacted, the legislation would require that seventh-grade health classes include a discussion of preventable causes of pre-term births, specifically that abortion is one of the risk factors.
“This bill is about giving our young people scientific information about health risks,” Sen. Warren Daniel, a Republican from Morganton, told the Senate Health Care Committee. “It’s based on science, not political ideology.”
The committee heard from Dr. Marty McCaffrey, a UNC Chapel Hill professor with expertise in neonatal medicine. Last year, McCaffrey asked the Child Fatality Task Force to develop a bill like this, saying premature births are an “epidemic” in North Carolina. He told the task force committee there are “potentially avoidable” deaths of 119 infants and 32 new cases of cerebral palsy annually. He cited a list of studies showing the link between abortion and pre-term births.
Dr. David Grimes, an obstetrics-gynecology professor and epidemiologist at the UNC School of Medicine, mocked the idea as “state-sponsored ideology.” He said claims that there is such a link are scientifically false and have been rejected by prominent health associations, and that politicians shouldn’t dictate curriculum to educators.
Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Democrat from Guilford County with a background in health services, said the reports weren’t definitive.
“You have multiple studies to prove and disprove,” she said. “We’ve heard both sides. … We can use whatever we want to justify why we want to do these things.”
She offered an amendment that would require students to be taught about preventable causes of premature births without requiring that abortion be included, but it was defeated.
Sen. Ralph Hise, the committee chairman and a Republican from Spruce Pine, rushed the bill to a voice vote because there was a time limit on the meeting. He ignored Democrats’ request for a show of hands.
Abortion-rights advocates have called the bill part of a larger Republican campaign against the procedure.