Phone Your Representative about this Critical Legislation
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Supporters and opponents of House Bill 854 made their opinions known about “A Woman’s Right to Know” on Wednesday when the House Judiciary B Subcommittee gathered to consider the informed consent bill that statistics show could give thousands of unborn babies a chance at life beyond the womb.
“Over and again, I have often heard my pro-choice friends argue that they don’t support abortion personally, but they want that choice to remain for women. They believe we need to be more preventive in our approach to the problem,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. (Hear Rev. Creech’s short speech before the Committee) “This legislation is preventive in nature. If we can limit abortion to only those women who truly decide to have one, having provided them with comprehensive medical information, as well as financial and practical supports for the alternatives to abortion, without unjust or unfair pressures, we can cut the abortion rate dramatically.”
Sponsored primarily by Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg) and Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret), the bill would ensure that women who seek abortion are informed about the medical risks of both abortion and childbirth, the gestational age of their child, who the abortion doctor is and whether he or she has malpractice insurance, the location of the nearest hospital and where the woman can obtain a free ultrasound. It would also require that abortion clinics tell a woman about social services available to her and make sure she has a chance to review information provided in print, via a phone call or the Internet, after which she would have a 24-hour waiting period to weigh that information before an abortion could be performed. An ultrasound would be required at least four hours before the abortion, though mothers would not be compelled to view or hear the procedure. The Abortion – Woman’s Right to Know Act would also mandate that a parent’s signature on a minor’s consent form be notarized.
“We’ve had thorough hearings on bills, and we often talk here legislatively about making sure something has had time for everybody to get all the information they need, to make sure their questions are answered,” Rep. Samuelson said as she explained the measure. “… So the desire of this bill … is with an issue that is as emotional and as consequential as an abortion – that we make sure these women have all the information they need with enough time for them to think seriously about what they want to do.”
Both she and McElraft emphasized that the bill would not do anything to take away a woman’s right to have an abortion.
“What it does to is give a woman the right to get the full story, to get the education she needs to be fully informed,” McElraft said.
That full story would likely have changed the life story of Danelle Hallenbeck, a mother who shared with lawmakers how little she was told about the procedure before her baby was aborted in Chapel Hill in 1993 and how much pain and suffering her uninformed decision had caused.
“I asked how far along I was in my pregnancy at eight weeks and they told me it was only tissue and it would be over before I knew it,” she said. “I was not informed of any possibility of complications, physical or psychological.”
Hallenbeck said she never even spoke to the doctor who came in, performed the abortion and went back out the door.
“The only words he said to me were while he was doing the procedure. He said ‘You are further along than you thought,'” she said. “Those words haunt me to this day.”
Joining Creech and Hallenbeck to promote the bill were David D. Brockman, Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh; Sara Riggins with North Carolina Family Policy Council; Betty Rogosich, director of Birthchoice; and Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life.
But opponents of the bill, including Dr. David Grimes, an obstetrician and gynecologist who has performed abortions for more than 30 years and has authored textbooks on the subject, told lawmakers that it is unnecessary and would be an unwarranted intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship.
Grimes said “having an abortion is vastly safer than having a baby,” and that states that required a 24-hour waiting period had doubled their rate of unintended births among teens, “especially black teens, with the terrible economic and educational consequences of that.” He further said that “requiring ultrasound is totally gratuitous,” and that the bill is demeaning to physicians and would “hurt everyone financially, especially poor women.”
Janet Colm, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, told lawmakers women already take abortion seriously and that the bill would lead to a “cookie cutter approach” to their care. Sarah Preston, policy director for the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Erica Pettigrew, a University of North Carolina medical student, also spoke out against the measure and about their fears that it would erode women’s access to abortion.
But Monsignor Brockman, who spoke on behalf of Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, told the committee that women should not be denied the advances in medical science that now can provide, via ultrasound, “a window into the womb.” He described the “significant psychological trauma” many women face after they realize “that the child they aborted had a heartbeat, brain activity and clearly identifiable human physical features.”
Barbara Holt, with N.C. Right to Life, said many women who seek counseling when they become pregnant are looking for a reason not to have an abortion and that, with full information, many will make life-affirming decisions. She said research shows that more than two-thirds of women seeking abortion feel they have no choice in the matter or are forced to have the abortion by others or by their circumstances. She also said polls show Americans overwhelmingly support the right of women to receive information about fetal development and alternatives with a 24-hour waiting period.
Rogosich said she sees firsthand how women are empowered when they are given information about fetal development or see their baby via ultrasound as well as what can happen when that information is not provided. She said just the day before a 15-year-old and her mother had come to her center and, after an ultrasound of the teenager’s 16-week-old child, decided against abortion. “Later, privately the mother disclosed that she herself had had an abortion as a teen when she also was 16 weeks pregnant. She was not given any information about the development of the baby and has suffered years of regret,” Rogosich said. “She is now seeking counseling to address the abortion experience. A 24-hour waiting period would surely have helped her.”
Hallenbeck believes the bill would have helped thousands of other mothers as well. She brought with her to the committee more than 2,000 Operation Outcry affidavits from women who have been hurt by abortion.
She said of the 2,000 sworn documents, which represent only a small portion of those collected by the Justice Foundation program, only seven women noted that they had been adequately informed about the nature of abortion, what it is and what it does.
Rev. Creech said leaving a woman largely uninformed medically and without knowledge of available alternatives is to “abandon her in a desperate situation with the false notion that there is really only one choice before her — the choice of abortion.”
“Let’s empower her to make a truly informed choice,” he urged.
The committee is expected to take up House Bill 854 again soon, for discussion and a vote. A companion bill, S 769, has been filed in the Senate by Republican senators Andrew Brock (Davie), Kathy Harrington (Gaston) and Warren Daniel (Burke). It has been referred to the Committee on Health Care.
Take Christian Action:
PHONE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IN THE NC HOUSE and ask him/her to support HB 854-Woman’s Right to Know Act. For the telephone number of your Representative and a phone script (talking points), simply go to the Christian Action League’s Grassroots Action Center by clicking here and then click on “Take Action” at the bottom of the page and follow the prompts. It’s really very easy!
Phone calls are important in this case. Emails may not be seen or deleted. Your lawmaker needs to hear from you. If he/she is not in the office when you call, leave your message with the Legislative Assistant who will be answering the phone. Be certain to give your name, address, and telephone number. This way your lawmaker knows it was from one of his own constituents and may want to return the call. If for some reason no one answers the phone, leave a voicemail.
Lawmakers will fully be back at work and in their offices by Tuesday, May 10th. After this time through Thursday is the best time to catch them.
You may also want to share this matter with your Pastor, your Church, and other friends, whom you know will be concerned about this issue. Download the talking points or phone script by Clicking here. Then make copies and pass it around to friends in your area (the same legislative district as your own), along with the phone number of the Representative handwritten by you somewhere on the page. Urge family members and friends to call also.
Remember: THIS IS ABOUT SAVING LIVES!!! Take the time to be a good Christian Citizen. Make a difference by generating a wave of phone calls urging your Representative to pass this critical legislation to protect a woman’s right to be fully informed when she’s considering an abortion.