Under the Dome

NC Senate OKs bill targeting Planned Parenthood

Veronica Mullaney, 74, protests outside Planned Parenthood Saturday August 22, 2015, in Raleigh, N.C. It was one of some 300 protests across the country.
Veronica Mullaney, 74, protests outside Planned Parenthood Saturday August 22, 2015, in Raleigh, N.C. It was one of some 300 protests across the country. jneff@newsobserver.com

Citing a national controversy over hidden-camera videos of Planned Parenthood, the N.C. Senate voted 41-3 to ban the sale of body parts resulting from an abortion.

The bill would also ban the donation of fetal remains for medical research unless a natural miscarriage has occurred, and it would ban state family planning funding for groups that provide abortions. It’s unclear whether the bill would prohibit researchers from paying processing fees to acquire fetal tissue.

The bill was among several pieces of surprise legislation that rolled out this week. The abortion legislation replaced a noncontroversial House bill about child support payments that passed that chamber unanimously in March. The abortion provisions first appeared in a Rules Committee meeting on Wednesday and was on the Senate floor Thursday. It’s on the House calendar for Monday.

The bill’s sponsor, Wake County Republican Sen. Chad Barefoot, said the bill was prompted by hidden-camera videos suggesting that Planned Parenthood was selling body parts from abortions.

Planned Parenthood has denied the allegations that it profits from fetal parts that are used in biomedical research; it says the videos were edited to create a false narrative. The group says it follows all laws, regulations and ethical guidelines in handling donated fetal tissue.

Barefoot says he’s concerned body parts could be sold in North Carolina if the legislature doesn’t act. While the federal government bans such sales, state law doesn’t address the issue.

“The videos are utterly gruesome and callous, and their contents represent a dark and depraved part of our culture,” Barefoot said. “We shouldn’t turn a blind eye. A marketplace for the sale of the remains of unborn children is growing in this country.”

Sen. Terry Van Duyn of Asheville was among three Democrats who voted no. “It defunds some of the best work that is done in this state to prevent teen pregnancy,” she said, referring to Planned Parenthood’s family planning programs. “In progressive states that have not limited access to abortion, we have seen the most significant decreases in abortion rates because of the work they are doing in educating our young women.”

Republicans said the state will still fund teen pregnancy prevention programs – just not through Planned Parenthood. “We have placed a great deal of money behind the prevention of teen pregnancy in this state,” said Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Union County Republican.

Van Duyn said the ban could also make it harder for researchers to acquire fetal tissue, which is widely used to study diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “It will impede scientific research that we need,” she said.

Despite Van Duyn’s objections, only two other Democrats joined her in voting no: Sen. Mike Woodard of Durham and Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram of Northampton County. Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham, who voiced concerns about the bill on Wednesday, did not vote Thursday.

A news release from Senate leader Phil Berger’s office called the vote “overwhelmingly bipartisan.”

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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