Conservative House lawmakers are celebrating this afternoon after overriding Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of H854, a measure that would add a waiting period and other requirements before women in North Carolina can get an abortion.
The measure requires doctors to read state-approved information on adoptions and alternatives to a patient seeking an abortion 24 hours in advance. Before the procedure, a woman would also have to get an ultrasound and either listen to the fetal heartbeat or sign an affidavit indicating she refused to do so.
The bill makes no exceptions for rape, incest, terminal pregnancies, or pediatric patients. It also makes it easier for the patient or the father of the unborn child – even if the father is a rapist – to sue a doctor who fails to fulfill each requirement of the law.
Sponsor Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, said the waiting period will offer women who may be under pressure to abort a pregnancy time to weigh their options, as well as access to information they may not have seen before. “Large numbers of women want this bill,” she said.
Samuelson said other states with similar legislation have seen abortion rates drop significantly. “Abortion will still be legal. Abortion will be even safer. And abortion will be more rare.”
“I’m choosing respect for the woman and her choice – a fully informed choice,” she said.
But Democratic opponents of the bill said it’s intended to discourage women from getting abortions, to make them harder to get, especially for lower-income women, and to shame those who do make that choice.
Rep. Diane Parfitt, D-Cumberland, a nurse by profession, said the state already has informed consent laws in place for medical procedures. She said she’s most bothered by the fact the bill makes no allowance for young girls already traumatized by rape. “We’re going to retraumatize her by showing a scared, vulnerable young girl an ultrasound, make her listen to the fetus’s heartbeat, and tell her as a consequence she may never be able to get pregnant again.”
But Samuelson took issue with that. “I’m also a rape victim,” she said, talking about the difficulties that caused for her for many years. She said rape victims should have all the information they need, just like other women. “I’ll tell you what traumatic and victimizing is. And I know I’m not the only woman here who could stand up and say the same thing. Respect them.”
Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, said the bill doesn’t respect women – it disrespects them because it assumes they’re not capable of making decisions. She called H854 “discriminatory” and “an outrageous insult on women’s reproductive rights.”
“It’s not about health, it’s political, and we all know that. And why should my right to make a decision about my health be the business of this legislature? This legislature would not single out a procedure affecting only men,” Adams said.
Adams says the bill also interferes with women’s private relationships with their doctors. “Some of us trust women to make health decisions without government intervention. Some of us don’t. Some of us want to control some of us,” she said.
Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, said the bill flies in the face of Republicans principles of reducing government intrusive. “This is so far out of bounds for those of you in this chamber who purport to believe in limited government,” he said “You are walking away from your core beliefs. Think about what you’re doing. Think about your principles.”
Republicans didn’t offer much argument on floor, with the exception of Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, who talked about the recent birth of his daughter, Barbara.
“I’ve heard over the years, so many times, the mantra of the minority party – that we’ll be judged as a society by how we treat our most vulnerable. And I ask you, what is possibly more vulnerable than a baby human being in her mother’s womb?” Blust said.
“There’s another life involved, and we’re just saying, the proponents of this bill, there’s two lives involved, and you’ve got to think about that other one. Who speaks for her?” Blust said. “This is a small thing to ask of someone who’s been given custody of such a precious commodity.”
Minority Leader Joe Hackney, D-Orange, disagreed, calling H854 “one of the most extreme bills in the United States of America.” He said it may not survive a legal challenge: the US Supreme Court has ruled states cannot “place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion,” Hackney said, “and no one can legitimately argue that this does not place such an obstacle.”
The veto was overridden by a vote of 72-47, with four Democrats crossing the aisle to join the Republicans: Reps. Bill Brisson, D-Bladen, Dewey Hill, D-Columbus, Tim Spear, D-Chowan, and Jim Crawford, D-Granville.
The override still has to pass the Senate, where it will need thirty votes. The bill itself passed with only 29. Republicans have a 31-19 margin in the Senate, but Davidson Republican Stan Bingham voted against the bill last time, and Wake Republican Richard Stevens did not cast a vote on it.
The Senate could vote on the veto Wednesday.