House approves new restrictions on NC abortion clinics

Posted July 11, 2013
Updated July 12, 2013

— The state House on Thursday approved a proposal to add regulations to the operations of North Carolina abortion clinics.

The House voted 74-41 in favor of the bill, which now returns to the Senate for a final vote before going to Gov. Pat McCrory. He pledged on the campaign trail last fall that he wouldn't support more restrictions on abortions in the state.

House members rolled out the regulations Wednesday in committee, adding them to an unrelated bill on motorcycle safety without advance notice. Hours earlier, McCrory threatened to veto a raft of abortion regulations that the Senate passed last week, saying they crossed the line between protecting patient safety and restricting access to a legal medical procedure.

The House proposal instructs Department of Health and Human Services regulators to write rules "not unduly restricting access" of women seeking abortion.

"This is really all about protecting the health and safety of women," said Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenbug. "Problems do exist in some of our abortion clinics, and that's what we're trying to address."

Samuelson said the House softened provisions in the Senate proposal to resolve the concerns McCrory and DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos expressed earlier this week.

The Senate bill would have required abortion clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers and required physicians to remain with patients throughout an abortion, even if it were drug-induced.

Abortion clinic bill opponents Abortion clinic rules clear House after lengthy debate

Rep. Ruth Samuelson House approves new abortion bill

The House version calls for only relevant standards of surgery centers to apply to abortion clinics and requires that a physician be present for only the first dose of RU486 or other abortion drugs. Such drugs are usually administered in two to three doses, and the doctor wouldn't need to see the patient for later doses under the House proposal.

Opponents argued during a vigorous three-hour debate that such changes were only cosmetic, and they said the legislation is intended to shut down abortion clinics by regulating them tightly. Similar laws in other states have forced clinics there to close.

"It’s about politics. It’s not about women’s health. It’s not about safety," said Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford.

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

Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, took exception to those characterizations, insisting that the bill isn't part of any "war on women."

"We know that abortion is out there, but it should be safe and clean and sterile as well as legal," Stevens said.

Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, later chided Democrats, saying they should have pushed for higher standards for abortion clinics years ago.

"Some of these clinics are nothing but money-making facilities," McElraft said. "It's not about the health of women. It's about abortion on demand at any cost to women."

The bill also contains the following provisions:

  • Allows any health care provider, not just doctors and nurses, to opt out of participating in abortion procedures.
  • Prohibits health plans offered on the exchange established under the federal Affordable Care Act from offering coverage for abortion.
  • Prohibits cities and counties from offering coverage for abortions in health plans they offer their employees.
  • Prohibits abortions for the purpose of selecting the sex of a child.

Rules for abortion clinics haven't been updated since the mid-1990s, Wos said this week, but she also noted that state funding for inspections is so paltry that clinics can be examined only every three to five years.

"For 19 years, we have not looked at and reviewed and updated the standards and requirements" for abortion clinics, said Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake. "Don’t you think there have been some changes that we need to look at?"

Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, R-Mecklenburg, said standards for animal shelters are often more extensive that what's required of abortion clinics.

"As a state, we're doing a poor job advocating for the health and safety of women," Schaffer said.

Noting that regulators shuttered a Durham abortion clinic last week over questions about its blood testing, she said, "We do have problems here. It's recurring, and we have to do something to fix that."

Abortion clinics statewide have been cited 205 times over the past decade for health and safety violations, Stevens said, and several have been written up repeatedly for the same problems.

Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, questioned how Republican lawmakers could square their arguments that women's health and safety need to be protected with other legislation they've pushed in the session, such as refusing to expand Medicaid access and cutting benefits to jobless workers.

"Pro-life doesn't end at birth," Brandon said. "We need to at a comprehensive way for women to have access to health care and not just at abortion clinics."

Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Haywood, noted the irony that lawmakers have been trying to strip away state regulations for other businesses but are trying to add new rules for the operators for abortion clinics.

"It's transparent to me that this is just government obstruction to women's rights," Queen said.

Rep. Nathan Baskerville, D-Vance, took issue with the provision prohibiting local and county governments from providing abortion coverage to employees, calling it a "power grab."

"(It's) another example of the state being tutored by this Republican majority on what big government really looks like," Baskerville said.

Democratic lawmakers were as upset about the handling of the bill as they were about its content.

After criticizing the Senate for its rush to pass abortion regulations last week with little public input, the House held a two-hour public hearing Tuesday on the measure. House Republicans then shelved the Senate bill, tweaked the language and stuck it in a separate bill without advance warning Wednesday and brought it to the floor within a day.

"This is just another version of the same political game-playing," said Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe. "It is what it is, a deceitful hijacking of women's access to a constitutionally protected medical procedure."

"As a woman, I am personally insulted by the maneuvers around getting this bill to the floor today," Adams said. "We’ve made a mockery of women’s health and safety. We deliberately put up all kinds of barriers to keep the public out."

An exasperated Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, noted that the House has already approved many of the provisions of the bill and asked simply, "What are we doing here?"

Carney said lawmakers should study abortion clinic operations more carefully and invite input from the medical community instead of putting DHHS on the spot to write new regulations.

"We're passing off our responsibility," she said. "We're not being deliberative and doing what we're charged to do."


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  • kliberto Jul 14, 2013

    The right wing extremists constantly scream for smaller government, but when it comes to women, they think it's ok to be in their uterus and most personal decision a woman can make.Rick Perry already vetoed a bill that would give women equal pay, and is now trying to ban abortion in Texas. Don't see how any, self respecting woman could vote for a republican if they truely care about the health, safety and education of their children.

  • nadamasx Jul 12, 2013

    None of this is a surprise. If you don't like what the GOP does don't elect them.

  • Objective Scientist Jul 12, 2013

    If you are an avid Republican and/or you are fervently "anti-abortion" you may not care how the bill was advanced - but you SHOULD! Unless you are one of the "Kool-Aid" drinkers intoxicated by whatever the flavor may be. Republican flavor or Democrat flavor - you have to be sickened by the "tactics" used to advance this bill!!! Warning: It will do you no good to come back at me with "...but the Dems have done the same thing, used similar/same tactics!!! It will do you no good - I will not dispute it, I will AGREE with you!!! I am first of all an "American"! After that I am a lot of things... but I am NEITHER a Repub NOR Dem!!! I am a very VERY INDEPENDENT independent who is sickened by such antics used with this "abortion restrictions" bill - adding restrictions to a completely, totally UNRELATED motorcycle safety bill - and doing that with NO advance notice is disingenuous at the highest level - and that is SICKENING - no matter what your "flavor" may be! NC Legislators are immature!!

  • junkmail5 Jul 12, 2013

    The Great Depression was an isolated event in history and not reflective of the ability of private charities to care for the poor.

    You realize we're still not recovered from the worst financial collapse in US history outside of that one currently, right?

    Contraception is already readily available.- healls

    and still not 100% reliable.

  • healls Jul 12, 2013

    Speaking of making no sense.... the government is US too. In fact it's the largest, richest, most powerful collection of US there is.

    But you don't want them, which is US, to help. How odd-junkmail

    I never said I didn't want the gov't to help. We have plenty of safety nets in place currently to help the less fortunate in this country and I think that's a good thing overall. That doesn't mean I think it should be expanded from the current level or used as a crutch indefinitely. We should be giving people the tools they need to be successful without government intervention. I think we do a pretty good job of that now and I would never advocate that we discontinue all government safety net programs. I also think private charity does a BETTER job of caring for people with less overhead, more cost efficiency, less waste and less bureaucracy. I'm not interested in sharing too much personal information on here, but believe me, I know this first hand.

  • mtnislandboy Jul 12, 2013

    "Thanks to ALL THE LOCAL MEDIA who have done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to explain to our low information posters that THESE ARE PRIVATE BUSINESSES, PROVIDING CONSTITUTIONALLY GUARANTEED SERVICES TO PRIVATE INDIVIDUALS BUT the GA thinks even though there hasn't BEEN ONE, NOT ONE incident of safety problem, they need to create new laws."

    True that most all abortion clinics are private, yet some tax dollars do go towards abortions, in the cases of incest, rape, etc. Our public funds also go to pay these people to make these decisions to regulate. That's where my point of keeping the government out of it entirely comes into play. And be easy throwing the rightwing card at me, i am no such thing, and that all right wingers are uninformed. Just as many uniformed voters on the other side. Try debating without the smart alec comments (this is the same game that our leaders use and get nowhere), although the CAPITAL LETTERS WERE VERY CONVINCING

  • healls Jul 12, 2013

    "And as evidenced by actual reality over the years, private charity is almost always never enough. Wonder why the government got over a million letters asking for help during the great depression if private charity was so successful?"
    Plenty Coups

    Using The Great Depression as an example that private charity does not work is really laughable. Of course private charity didn't work during that dark time in our nation's history. The people who would've otherwise been contributing to charities, helping out their neighbors and taking care of others were in need themselves. Just about everyone in the entire nation was affected by it in some way. The Great Depression was an isolated event in history and not reflective of the ability of private charities to care for the poor.

  • healls Jul 12, 2013

    "If you truly want fewer abortions then make contraception more readily available and affordable and have comprehensive sex education in schools." corgimom06

    Contraception is already readily available. Contraception is always covered by Medicaid and low-income women who can't afford contraception can get birth control at their local Health Department on a sliding fee scale. Health Departments also hand out free condoms to anyone, no questions asked. We already have comprehensive sex education in our schools. NC has not had abstinence-only sex ed in a long time. My children just completed middle school and they were given very thorough information in their Health class (more than I would've personally liked, I'd rather educate them myself). This is definitely NOT the problem.

  • Plenty Coups Jul 12, 2013

    heals-"Many of us believe that the Bible instructs US to care for the poor and marginalized in society and we do that by volunteering our time, contributing money to charities of our choice and reaching out to help when we see a need."

    And as evidenced by actual reality over the years, private charity is almost always never enough. Wonder why the government got over a million letters asking for help during the great depression if private charity was so successful?

  • Plenty Coups Jul 12, 2013


    The law, as written, would effectively shut down almost every clinic that performs abortions and would also not allow every insurance plan to offer abortion coverage.