By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Named as a top legislative priority by the N.C. Right to Life, as well as the Christian Action League, H 854 Abortion-Woman’s Right to Know passed the House, 71 to 48, Wednesday despite very vocal opponents who insisted that it would invade doctor-patient relationships, shame and terrorize women and lead to frivolous lawsuits against physicians.
“On the contrary, this bill will lead to life for many of the unborn that would have been destroyed by abortion and a much better life for the women who are empowered with information before making such a critical decision,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We’re thrilled to see the supporters of this measure stand strong in the face of continued attacks and hope to see the same resolve in the Senate.”
From their fiscal research, Legislative staff estimated the bill would lead to approximately 2,900 more births each year in the state where nearly 30,000 abortions are performed annually.
Sponsors of the bill argued that the measure would ensure that women seeking abortion receive adequate information about the procedure, as well as an opportunity to view an ultrasound at least four hours prior to surgery. They also told critics on the House floor that “choice is not truly choice unless it is informed.”
“We do a lot of talking about transparency, about taking time to know all the facts before we make a decision,” said Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg). When it comes to abortion, it’s very important for women to have all the facts.”
In addition to giving her basic information such as the name of the doctor who will perform her abortion, whether or not the doctor is insured, the risks of both abortion and carrying a baby full-term and the location of the nearest hospital, the bill would inform a woman about available social services that might help her should she opt to continue her pregnancy. One portion of the legislation which would have required that a parental signature authorizing a minor’s abortion be notarized was removed via an amendment put forth by the bill’s sponsors.
Opponents of the bill – legislation that would bring North Carolina in line with 34 other states that have similar pre-abortion provisions – said its required 24-hour waiting period and ultrasound were obstacles that greatly eroded a woman’s right to abortion. But Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret) said women have a right to know what is happening to their bodies.
Armed with a stack of affadavits from post abortive women who said they wished they had been better informed, McElraft said the doctor/patient relationships opponents insisted would be compromised are not a reality for most.
“We heard testimony in committee from women who had five abortions and were never once told their doctor’s name,” McElraft said. She shared an emotional story of her nephew’s girlfriend who sought help at a Planned Parenthood clinic when she became pregnant and was told that, because of her drug use, her baby would be horribly deformed and should be aborted. Only when her boyfriend demanded she be allowed to see her own ultrasound was her perfectly formed baby revealed.
“They had lied to her about how far along she was and about the deformity,” McElraft said. “This is not what women should go through.”
About a dozen lawmakers spoke out in opposition to the bill, with Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) promising that should it win approval from the Legislature, he would expect it to be vetoed by the Governor. Just as he had in committee, Glazier argued that the bill “determines one size of information and procedure fits all” and said that complex decisions do not “fit neatly in a black and white statutory box.” Instead, he said “reproductive decisions take place in the messy gray zone of hard choices informed by individual circumstances and conscience.”
Other opponents of the bill claimed it would traumatize women, who may have been the victims of rape or incest, to be thoroughly informed about abortion. And some spent their time insisting that the House shouldn’t even be discussing abortion, but should instead be passing laws to make contraceptives free and accessible to all women and girls.
Rep. Phillip Haire (D-Haywood) began in the 1500s as he prefaced his remarks on the bill with an explanation of the history of the King James Bible and then insisted that the abortion information measure was a backdoor approach for an illegal establishment of religion by the government.
But Samuelson put the issue back in perspective prior to the House vote telling fellow lawmakers that, “This bill keeps abortion legal. It keeps abortion safe. And, by golly, we know it helps make it more rare.”
“It is still her choice,” she said. “It makes it her informed choice.”