State Politics

New abortion rules sought in bill by NC Senate Republicans

Sen. Warren Daniel
Sen. Warren Daniel

Restrictions on abortions were proposed in a bill filed Thursday. The proposed restrictions are not as far-reaching as past efforts.

The legislation, led by Sen. Warren Daniel, a Republican from Morganton, continues several years of argument in the General Assembly on an issue that also touches on the campaign of Gov. Pat McCrory.

McCrory campaigned on a pledge not to further restrict access to abortions. Advocates on both sides of the issue closely watched how his administration handled a bill the governor signed into law in 2013 that required the state to update abortion clinic regulations.

Abortion-rights advocates were pleased with last year’s outcome, saying it wouldn’t force any clinics to close. But abortion opponents said the regulations didn’t go far enough to protect women’s health. The General Assembly still must approve those rules.

This new proposal, Senate Bill 604, is not a sweeping clampdown on abortion clinics. Its most stringent provision would require that clinics have written agreements with hospitals in case of emergencies, which could test McCrory’s commitment.

Under the 2013 law, clinics are in compliance if they try to obtain agreements but are unsuccessful. Clinics in some states have had to close because hospitals wouldn’t enter into such agreements.

It would also impose new requirements on doctors who perform abortions or induce miscarriages after the 16th week of pregnancy to provide substantial documentation to the state, including an ultrasound image. After the 20th week of pregnancy, doctors would have to provide additional documentation justifying why continued pregnancy would threaten the woman’s life or gravely impair her health.

Abortions after 20 weeks have been illegal in North Carolina since 1973, except in cases where continuing the pregnancy would result in those circumstances.

The bill would also give physicians the right to refuse to perform abortions if they have moral, ethical or religious objections to it.

Daniel’s bill would budget $500,000 for a perinatal resource center to help families dealing with health complications detected during pregnancy, in hopes of discouraging some women from seeking abortions.

It would also prohibit anyone younger than 18 from working in an abortion clinic.

Shoshannah Smith Sayers, interim executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said some of the proposed restrictions in the bill might seem minor, but they would impede women’s access to safe abortions.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic issued a statement in response to the bill, saying it would do nothing to protect women or children, while inserting the government into the doctor-patient relationship.

Along with Daniel, the bill’s sponsors are Sen. Shirley Randleman, a Republican from Wilkesboro, and Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Republican from Kernersville.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, which developed the pending regulations, said the agency was reviewing the bill.

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Twitter: @CraigJ_NandO