Raleigh, N.C. — New legislative language that would ban the sale or donation of fetal tissue from abortions emerged in the Senate Rules Committee late Wednesday afternoon, piggybacking on a national controversy over Planned Parenthood's practices.
House Bill 297 had been a fairly technical bill dealing with child support until the committee stripped its original language and inserted the fetal tissue measure.
"We think what we've seen in these videos, whether its happening in North Carolina or not, is that basically abortion clinics are using the flexibility in the federal rules to haggle over the prices of body parts of unborn children," said Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, who is the language's lead sponsor. "I think the moral consideration in North Carolina is ... we just don't want that to happen here."
Officials with Planned Parenthood in North Carolina say they do not transfer – either by sale or donation – fetal tissue from any of their North Carolina clinics. That's a practice, they say, restricted to three centers in two different states.
"This bill is nothing more than another political attack on safe and legal abortion in North Carolina, being pushed by the same politicians and extreme political groups, that oppose a woman's right to make deeply personal pregnancy decisions regardless of the circumstances," said Melissa Reed, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic.
The videos in question emerged this summer and showed Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood, discussing how fetal tissue was transferred. In the original video, she makes clear the money involved just covers the prices of harvesting and shipping the tissue. But heavily edited versions of the video make it appear that she was pitching tissue donation as a money-making enterprise for her nonprofit.
House Bill 297, which was approved on a voice vote and is now headed to the Senate floor, would make it a Class I felony for any person to "transfer from one person to another in exchange for any consideration whatsoever" fetal tissue produced as the result of an abortion. Such body parts could only be buried or cremated.
Barefoot said he believes that his bill would stop entirely the donation of fetal tissue from abortions, even if it was given for free.
It's unclear what impact this bill would have on the purchase of stem cells or fetal tissue by North Carolina researchers, even if that tissue came from out of state. Barefoot said he was still checking on how his bill might interact with the state's organ donation statute.
A separate section of the bill codifies a provision of the recently passed state budget that prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from contracting with any health care provider for family planning or other services if that provider performs abortion. Planned Parenthood will lose tens of thousands of dollars in contracts as a result of the provision.