Raleigh, N.C. — A bill requiring North Carolina seventh-graders to be taught that abortion is a risk factor for later miscarriages is headed back to the Senate after winning final House approval Thursday.
The vote was 69-42.
After an amendment that passed with near-unanimous support, the bill now requires the seventh-grade health curriculum to teach that abortion, as well as drinking, smoking, illicit drug use and inadequate prenatal care, is a "risk for" later miscarriages or premature births. The bill originally referred to those factors as "causes."
Democratic critics praised the amendment but said the proposal is still inappropriate for middle-school students, warning that teaching about abortion is likely to cause trouble for teachers.
"This has been a minefield of a bill for us," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, "and now we’re putting [teachers] in the position of having to decide. It may be fair if there was a consensus on the medical science, but there’s not. It may be fair if this was at least age-appropriate information, but it is not.
"It will inevitably open up incredibly difficult questions that we’re asking the teacher to answer. That’s not fair," he said. "There will be heck to pay at that school the next day."
"If teachers can't take that on as a task, they're not adequate to their jobs," responded Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake.
Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, remarked that, if House leaders were truly concerned about reducing pre-term births, they wouldn't be seeking to move pregnant women off Medicaid rolls and do away with the Child Fatality Task Force.
“We don’t want to teach about contraception, but we sure want to teach about abortion,” Fisher said.
Rep. Skip Stam, R-Wake, said Democrats were less concerned about age-appropriateness when they passed the Healthy Youth Act five years ago, mandating teaching about prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
"'We’ve got to get them early,' you said," Stam said, "but lo and behold, we can’t talk about what happens when you get pregnant.
"Some people will get pregnant, and some of them who don’t get pregnant may refuse to get pregnant because they realize they want to have a healthy child when they’re old enough to have a child," he said.
Leaders shut down the tense debate after an exchange between Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, and Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry.
Adams said the motivation of the bill is political, not scientific. "It’s all about anti-choice and limiting abortion, and that’s really all it’s about," she said.
Stevens accused Adams of breaking House rules of debate. "She is attacking motives and personal credibility,” she said.
"I’m not talking about any people. I’m talking about the legislation," responded Adams. "Everybody else is talking about the bill. Why can’t I?"
The proposal has to return to the Senate for final approval of the House's changes.