Raleigh, N.C. — Critics are assailing Gov. Pat McCrory's decision to sign an abortion bill passed Wednesday by lawmakers, saying he is reneging on a promise he made as a candidate not to approve any more restrictions on access to the procedure.
House Bill 465 would triple the wait time for a woman seeking an abortion, from 24 to 72 hours after she consults with a physician. McCrory quietly signed the bill into law on Friday.
During his 2012 gubernatorial campaign, McCrory replied "none" when asked during a debate what restrictions on abortion he would support. He said this week that House Bill 465 doesn't break that promise.
"It takes a phone call to begin that process," he said of the waiting period. "Frankly, that (is the) process a lot of people use for all medical procedures.
"The fact of the matter is, due to my work and others' work, we did not add further restrictions to access," he added.
McCrory was referring to a provision dropped before the bill made it through the Senate that would have prevented anyone other than a board-certified ob-gyn from performing an abortion. Fewer than two-thirds of North Carolina's 100 counties have certified a ob-gyn.
Even without that provision, Melissa Reed, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, was critical of the bill. The new waiting period is among the longest in the United States, and it makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest or if a doctor strongly advises an abortion.
"Tripling the waiting period for women seeking safe and legal abortions is a restriction. This is an arbitrary delay. It has no medical basis," Reed said. "This is absolutely a restriction, and people and voters who care about women's health across the state are going to remember this."
The bill also requires doctors who perform abortions in which the fetus is older than 16 weeks to send an image of the ultrasound and other information to the state Department of Health and Human Services. No other state requires that.
North Carolina prohibits abortions after 20 weeks, and Reed said that provision is meant to discourage doctors worried about being second-guessed as to whether they are abiding by state law.
"It will also really worry women to know that their private medical ultrasounds are going to be sent to the state. They're going to be available via a website, and even though their names are redacted, it is their private medical information," she said.
DHHS, which recently finished its own rule-making process for abortions, didn't request the ultrasound provision, spokeswoman Alexandra Lefebvre said. The agency doesn't have a radiologist on staff to read the scans, she said.
McCrory, who also was sharply criticized in 2013 for abortion-related legislation he signed into law, said the media is paying too much attention to the waiting period bill.
"My focus (is) – and I encourage your focus to be – on the issues that are most important to the people of North Carolina, and those aren’t literally the issues that are above the fold in your newspapers at this point in time," he said.