Under the Dome

Bill targeting Planned Parenthood passes NC House, heads to McCrory

Veronica Mullaney, 74, protests outside Planned Parenthood Saturday August 22, 2015, in Raleigh, N.C. The N.C. House approved a bill Monday that would ban state funding from going to the organization and other abortion providers.
Veronica Mullaney, 74, protests outside Planned Parenthood Saturday August 22, 2015, in Raleigh, N.C. The N.C. House approved a bill Monday that would ban state funding from going to the organization and other abortion providers. jneff@newsobserver.com

After a heated debate about hidden-camera videos of Planned Parenthood, the N.C. House voted 79-29 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 – a provision that targets Planned Parenthood. It’s unclear whether the bill would prohibit researchers from paying processing fees to acquire fetal tissue.

“This is the bill that we have in reference to Planned Parenthood selling body parts,” said Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Mount Airy Republican who presented the bill. “That’s the impetus for this bill.”

Stevens objected to comments about Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services, saying those comments were out of order because the bill only involved the sale of body parts. “If they don’t do it, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Stevens said.

Rep. Susan Fisher, an Asheville Democrat, said Stevens failed to mention the family planning funding portion of the bill. “Denying young people access to effective pregnancy prevention will simply increase the incidence of abortion,” she said. “The idea that we as legislators would put politics over a proven program and the health of North Carolina teens is, in my view, wrong.”

But some Republicans questioned Planned Parenthood’s teen pregnancy programs. Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican, suggested that abortion providers might be handing out contraceptives that “don’t work” so they can get “more business.”

Some Democrats said they’re worried the bill would make it harder for researchers to acquire fetal stem cells in their efforts to cure diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

“We are on the verge of discovering a whole new way of treating and curing diseases,” said Rep. Carla Cunningham, a Charlotte Democrat. “Please consider the other people that could benefit form the research on fetal tissue.”

But Republicans countered that much of the research now involves adult stem cells. “Would I ever want someone to sell the part of a body for someone for research so they can help my husband with Parkinson’s?” said Rep. Pat McElraft, an Emerald Isle Republican. “Absolutely not.”

Much of Monday’s House debate centered around the authenticity of the Planned Parenthood videos. 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.

“This whole national furor over this issue is linked to videos that have been widely acknowledged to be heavily edited,” said Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat. “They really are fraudulent.”

But Republicans said the videos were clear. “What I saw with my eyes and what I heard with my ears was not altered,” McElraft said. “It was coming exactly from a member of Planned Parenthood and its staff. I’m sickened by it, and I can’t believe anyone would vote to allow this to happen in North Carolina.”

The abortion legislation, proposed by Republican Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County, replaced a noncontroversial House bill about child support payments that passed that chamber unanimously in March. The Senate approved it last week with only three Democrats voting no.

The bill now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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