Raleigh, N.C. — The state House has passed a bill dealing with several abortion-related provisions, but only after removing a controversial provision dealing with contraception coverage.
House Bill 730, which passed the House Judiciary A Committee Wednesday morning, originally contained a measure that would have allowed employers to opt out of providing contraception in their health plans.
North Carolina law already allows employers with religious affiliations to offer health plans with no contraception coverage. The committee-passed version of the bill extended the definition of "religious employer" to "include any employer, whether incorporated or not and whether for-profit or not, that has a religious, moral, or ethical objection to providing such coverage."
However, the contraception provision was controversial among Republicans.
"It's going to hurt on the House floor," Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, warned the committee.
His fellow Republicans took that warning to heart and stripped the provision when it came to the House floor Wednesday night.
The bill now deals with three different abortion-related matters:
- extending the right to opt out of helping with an abortion procedure to any health care provider, not just doctors and nurses, as is the case under current law
- prohibiting health plans created pursuant to the federal Affordable Care Act from including abortion coverage, despite at least one federal court ruling that such provisions run counter to the law and are therefore unenforceable
- prohibiting cities and counties from offering abortion coverage in their health plans greater than what the state allows in its employee health plan. Currently, the State Health Plan pays for abortion only in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake
The provisions with respect to the Affordable Care Act and local government coverage were not part of the bill as filed and were not available to the public before the morning committee meeting. They now make up the bulk of the bill.
The bill passed the House 67-38. It will be debated and voted on again Thursday before heading to the state Senate.
Even without the contraception measure, the measure still angers liberal health advocacy groups.
"Thousands of our activists contacted their representatives over the last three days to tell them that women – not employers or politicians – have the right to control their health decisions, including whether to use birth control," said Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. "We celebrate the defeat of this extreme, out-of-touch provision of HB 730 and turn our attention to the remaining provisions of HB 730 up for third reading tomorrow night."