Under the Dome

Democrat cries ‘ugly’ about abortion bill changes

N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte
N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte

Republicans in the state Senate have added provisions to an abortion bill that are drawing strong criticism from a key Democrat in the Senate.

The bill has already passed the House and would extend the waiting period for abortions from 24 hours to 72 hours. The purpose is to give women more time to consider the decision in the hope it will lead to fewer abortions.

The proposal, House Bill 465, passed the House in a 74-45 vote last month.

Now, in the Senate, a substitute bill is set for discussion on Wednesday.

That substitute abortion bill now includes language from separate bills, including Senate Bill 418, which is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte. Jackson is a former prosecutor.

His bill would have changed the language for defining and outlining penalties for a statutory rape or sexual offense to clarify that it applies to someone under 15. Jackson’s bill is a technical change to eliminate current wording that says it applies to a person “13, 14 or 15 years old.” His change would strike 13 and 14 and just say that it applies to someone 15 years old or younger.

Combining the two prompted Jackson to express concern on Wednesday.

On Twitter, Jackson called the move “ugly.”

“My bill to strengthen statutory rape laws has been included in an abortion bill,” Jackson tweeted. “They want Dems to vote no, for future TV ads. Ugly.”

He added: “My bill to close a sex offense loophole has also been added to the abortion bill. They want us to vote no so they can run TV ads.”

A spokeswoman for Senate leader Phil Berger said the committee bill is aimed at protecting children and is a compilation of legislation already filed.

“Sen. Jackson is entitled to his opinion about what constitutes protecting children, but from the beginning Republican senators have supported legislation that would protect children – including the unborn,” press secretary Shelly Carver wrote in an email.

Other provisions added to the substitute abortion waiting-period bill would:

▪ Clarify that an assault is committed “in the presence of a minor” when the minor can see or hear the assault.

▪ Require registered sex offenders to stay away from premises frequented by minors if they committed federal crimes or some in other states that are substantially similar to sex offenses under state law.

▪ Permit judges to impose conditions of pretrial release in domestic violence cases to protect persons the defendant is dating or has dated.

Jackson said those other provisions are “totally unrelated” to the abortion bill and that the effort is “about TV ads.”

“I filed two bipartisan bills which have now been turned into partisan weapons,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is the environment we’re in.”