Abortion rights supporters said Thursday they expect Republican legislators to push additional regulations they say could put many of North Carolina’s abortion clinics out of business.
No legislation has been introduced yet, but a group of Democratic lawmakers held a news conference Thursday morning to raise concern about what they called “unprecedented restrictions” already in draft form.
If the GOP does file a bill – and Republican Rep. Paul Stam of Apex says he’s “sure” one will emerge – it would add to regulations currently under review at the Department of Health and Human Services. A 2013 law required the DHHS update, and the public comment period for the agency’s proposal closes Friday.
Democrats voiced support for the DHHS rules Thursday. Stam said they represent a “slight improvement on current laws” that Republicans will likely support. But a bill this session could add stronger regulations, Stam said.
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Melissa Reed of Planned Parenthood said she expects a bill would require abortion providers to be board certified, with admitting privileges at a hospital and an on-site anesthesiologist. A doctor could also be required to remain with the patient for an hour after the procedure. No facilities in the state currently meet all those standards, she said.
Asked about those possibilities, Stam said they represent “good proposals.”
“Whether they’ll be in a bill, I don’t know,” he said, noting that he’d also favor smaller tweaks, such as banning people younger than 18 from working in abortion clinics.
Democrats said they’ll oppose any proposals that go beyond the DHHS rules, which have support from Democrats, Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups.
“Most North Carolinians do not want their health care regulations written by politicians,” said Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville. “It is time for the legislature to stay in its own lane and let the medical professionals do their jobs.”
But Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, has said the DHHS proposal falls short of the 2013 law’s intent. She’s argued that “they clearly do not go far enough in protecting women’s health and safety.”
The DHHS rules would require each clinic to have a defibrillator device, written agreements with nearby hospitals for emergency transfers, quality assurance committees and a 24-hour phone line to handle calls about complications. A financial analysis by the legislature’s staff estimates the cost to abortion clinics would amount to about $7,500 each in the first fiscal year, and about $5,800 each in subsequent years.
“I am pleasantly surprised and happy at the process used by (DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos),” Glazier said.
Glazier says efforts to go beyond the DHHS requirements would likely prompt a lawsuit. “I can’t imagine that current leadership wants to continue to engage in that litigious path,” he said.