McCrory faces test on abortion bill

July 10, 2013 

Early Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory threatened to veto an abortion bill that imposes extensive safety requirements that few of the state’s abortion clinics would currently meet.

It was encouraging to hear that there is a point where the governor thinks Republicans in the legislature have gone too far. Unfortunately, the governor’s first seemingly strong stand against a radical legislative measure is conditional and equivocal.

In a debate during his 2012 gubernatorial campaign, McCrory was asked what laws restricting abortion he would sign. His answer: “None.” That was emphatic. His position now isn’t. A statement issued by the governor’s office said he would veto the abortion bill unless significant changes were made. Nonetheless, the statement said, “The governor believes that major portions of the bill are of sound principal (sic) and value.”

There’s nothing sound about this bill. It was flawed from its creation. It was approved by the state Senate without public notice on the eve of the July 4th holiday, an approach even McCrory criticized. It was offered in that furtive manner because it is at its core deceptive. It’s a bill masquerading as an effort to provide safer health care for women while its intent is to make the safety requirements so onerous that almost all abortion clinics would have to close or spend heavily to meet the standards similar to those for outpatient surgery centers.

On Wednesday, House Republicans moved the abortion bill into a new vehicle, Senate Bill 353 – a bill related to motorcycle safety – and slightly altered the restrictions. The amended bill passed a committee vote and could soon go to a House vote.

House Republican leaders say the changes should satisfy the governor’s worries about excessive restriction of abortion access. Now McCrory appears prepared to sign the restrictions under a ruse that the bill is about better health care, not abortion.

Set aside for a moment that this purported concern about improved health care is coming from a governor who denied a federally funded extension of Medicaid to hundreds of thousands North Carolinians who lack any health care. Let’s consider the need the bill’s backers cite – the need to improve the safety of abortion procedures.

Complications require admission to a hospital in only 0.3 percent of abortions performed annually in the nation, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Nearly 20 percent of abortions are not invasive procedures but are drug-induced, and that percentage is rising. The clinics are staffed by doctors, and women who need emergency care have the same access to it as any person with a medical emergency.

Meanwhile, there are already state laws that set standards for and support inspections of clinics. The state Department of Health and Human Services suspended a Durham clinic’s operating license this month. That’s an indication of procedural lapses but also evidence that the system catches them.

There are compelling moral arguments that can be made against abortion, but there’s little evidence for a medical safety argument against it.

During his campaign, the governor answered the question about what restrictions on abortion he would sign. He should stand by it.

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