Raleigh, N.C. — A recently-passed North Carolina's abortion law is at issue in a campaign ad airing in a Wilmington state senate district race. In the ad, Democrat Deb Butler criticizes Republican Sen. Thom Goolsby for his stand on women's health, particularly his support of H 854: Abortion- Woman's Right to Know.
When the bill was first introduced, Democrats immediately labeled it as part of the "war on women", and linked it to a Virginia law which received national attention. The North Carolina law eventually passed in July of 2011 despite a gubernatorial veto. It differed from the most controversial parts of the Virginia law, as Laura Leslie wrote earlier this year:
North Carolina’s ultrasound law, passed last year over the governor’s veto, didn’t provoke the same level of controversy. It doesn't include the words "trans-vaginal probe," either. But it effectively requires the procedure for many, if not most, abortions.
The new law requires an ultrasound before any abortion procedure. The woman has to be shown the image of the fetus, have the image described to her, and be offered the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat.
Planned Parenthood of Central NC spokeswoman Paige Johnson said her group lobbied hard against other parts of the bill, but didn’t make a big issue of the probe. That’s because her group uses them, too.
Johnson says Planned Parenthood requires an ultrasound before every abortion to “date” the pregnancy. NC law allows abortion only within the first 20 weeks, except when the mother’s life or health is threatened.
In the Butler commercial, the candidate shows viewers a "trans-vaginal probe," although never explicitly says what it is.
In the wake of coverage of the campaign ad, Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, one of the movers behind the law, has been e-mailing news outlets to point out that ultrasounds have been required by the state since at least 1994. A federal court has delayed implementation of part of the law - dealing with whether a doctor should be required to show and describe the ultrasound images to the woman - but has not set aside the ultrasound requirement itself.
For what it's worth, the Butler-Goolsby race is in a swing district that both Republican and Democratic strategists are paying a lot of attention to this year.