Raleigh, N.C. — With little debate Thursday morning, the state Senate approved a measure banning the sale or donation of fetal tissue in North Carolina.
The measure, first unveiled in the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday afternoon, would forbid any exchange of money for any tissue, even stem cells, from an aborted fetus.
Bill author Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, said the bill was inspired by controversial, selectively edited videos that emerged in July showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the transfer of fetal tissue for medical research, including the cost for processing and shipping the tissue.
Barefoot said the videos "reveal that a marketplace for the parts and remains of unborn children is growing in this country."
"The videos are utterly gruesome, callous, and their contents represent a very dark and depraved part of our culture," he said.
Planned Parenthood regional officials say their clinics in North Carolina do not sell, transfer or donate any fetal tissue. Barefoot said Wednesday he doesn't know whether any other abortion providers do.
Still, he argued, it's important to put a ban in state law.
"It seeks to provide some level of dignity to unborn children who lose their lives due to an abortion," he said.
A second section of the bill restates a measure of the already-enacted budget that would bar the state from contracting for pregnancy prevention or family planning services with any organization that provides abortions, a provision that would affect only Planned Parenthood, which currently holds about $110,000 in state contracts for such programs in two counties.
Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, argued against the bill, saying the fetal tissue ban "will impede scientific research that we need" because it could bar medical researchers from paying for shipping or processing of fetal tissue or stem cells.
She also argued that the contract ban unfairly targets Planned Parenthood.
"It mischaracterizes profoundly the work of an organization that has worked for decades to improve women’s health," Van Duyn said. "It defunds some of the best work that is done in this state to prevent teen pregnancy."
Barefoot replied that pregnancy prevention education is still funded in the state budget and can be handled by other groups.
"If you want to provide adolescent and teen pregnancy services in North Carolina, then don’t provide abortions," he said.
The measure passed 41-3.
It now goes to the House for a concurrence vote, which is scheduled for Monday, according to Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake.