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N.C. House Passes New Version of the Abortion Bill, S 353 – Health and Safety Law Changes

By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
July 12, 2013

lifeRALEIGH — Christmas in July? Not yet, but the N.C. House did its part Thursday to gift wrap legislation that would increase health and safety standards for abortion clinics, limit abortion coverage in insurance, prohibit abortions for the purpose of sex selection, and allow any health care provider to opt out of participating in abortion procedures.

Initially a bill aimed only at improving safety for motorcyclists, S 353, Health and Safety Law Changes was amended to include the abortion related provisions and passed the House Judiciary Subcommittee B on Wednesday. Lawmakers debated for three hours on Thursday before passing the bill, 74 to 41, along party lines.

“This is really all about protecting the health and safety of women. Problems do exist in some of our abortion clinics, and that’s what we’re trying to address,” Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg) told fellow lawmakers, reminding them that standards for abortion clinics had not been updated since 1994.

She described a provision in the bill that would require doctors to be present throughout a surgical abortion or during the first dose of medicine in a chemical one, explaining that it is necessary for a doctor to ensure that the woman is at the right stage of her pregnancy for the drug to be safely taken. Further, she said fears that the bill would cause an undue burden on clinics and force them to close were unfounded, especially as language in the bill charges the Department of Health and Human Services to update facility standards “while not unduly restricting access” to abortions.

Even so, Democrats decried the measure as an attack on women’s rights.

“This is an anti-woman bill in disguise, a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson).

Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford) said “… this is a radical bill that gives the ability for radical politicians to impose radical beliefs on the rights of women.”

Interestingly, the House had already passed prior bills opposing sex selection abortion and extending conscience protection to all healthcare workers. While pro-abortion protestors had accused lawmakers of trying to sneak the legislation through the General Assembly, supporters of S 353 pointed out that the path the bill made to the House floor allowed more discussion than what would have occurred had the abortion provisions remained part of S 695.

That bill, the Faith, Family and Freedom Protection Act of 2013 passed by the Senate on July 3, was debated in a House Committee earlier this week, where members of the public were allowed to comment. Seeing a need to address concerns expressed by the state Department of Health and Human Services and the Governor’s Office, sponsors put S 695 aside and put their efforts in a new vehicle, S 353, since S 695, already passed by the Senate, could not be amended.

During Thursday’s intense House floor debate, the bill’s supporters said abortion clinics statewide have been cited for health and safety violations more than 200 times over the past 10 years and that some had been written up multiple times for the same problems.

“We know that abortion is out there, but it should be safe and clean and sterile as well as legal,” said Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Surry).

Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret) said some of the clinics “are nothing but money-making facilities.”

And Rep. Jacqueline Michelle Schaffer (R-Mecklenburg) said some of the current guidelines regulating abortion clinics “pale in detail and in breadth to what we require of animal shelters and things promoting animal welfare.”

“I would submit to you we need to be protecting and promoting the health and safety of women with at least the same amount of detail and care we would regulate what is going on in our animal shelters,” she added.

The bill is now headed to the Senate for concurrence.

“The fight for this bill is not over yet, so we need to keep praying,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “The dynamics involved are complex and much more than meet the eye. Nothing can be taken for granted.”

“But we can celebrate the courage and thorough work of House members who sought to make this measure workable and help ensure its passage,” he added.