Raleigh, N.C. — A proposal to require schools to teach students that abortion causes preterm births is headed for the Senate floor despite dueling University of North Carolina experts and an unclear committee vote.
Senate Bill 132 says the state's mandated health curriculum on reproductive health and safety "shall include information about the preventable causes of preterm birth, including induced abortion as a cause of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies."
"It’s a bill based on science. It’s not based on political ideology," sponsor Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, told the Senate Health Committee Wednesday. "It’s based on the scientific evidence that you will have a future risk of preterm birth if you decide voluntarily to have an abortion."
What evidence is there, however, is hotly disputed within the scientific community of experts on preterm birth and reproductive health.
UNC School of Medicine Associate Professor of Pediatrics Dr.Marty McCaffrey is a member of the state's Child Fatality Task Force. He spoke in support of the bill, calling the evidence that abortions increase risk of later preterm births "immutable."
Citing studies and meta-studies of data, McCaffrey said evidence shows abortion as a risk factor for preterm birth "dwarfs" smoking as a risk factor.
"It’s been estimated abortion may be responsible for 31 percent of preterm births in North Carolina," he told the committee. "It’s time to educate our young citizens about preterm birth."
But UNC School of Medicine Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Dr. David Grimes called the bill “unnecessary and uninformed.”
"Senate Bill 132 would establish a state-sponsored ideology," he said. "The statement is scientifically false."
Grimes formerly directed abortion surveillance efforts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The World Health Organization, the CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatricians and the American Public Health Association all have uniformly concluded that abortion does not cause prematurity," he told the committee. "How did they all get it wrong?"
Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, offered an amendment that would have removed the clause about abortion, citing the lack of scientific consensus.
"You have multiple studies to validate your research," she told Daniel. "I have extensive information from the CDC. We can use whatever we want to justify these things we want to do."
Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, also voiced concern about the abortion clause. "A risk factor is not the same as a cause," he said.
The voice vote on Robinson's amendment sounded as if it had passed, but committee Chairman Sen. Ralph Hise declared it had failed, ignoring Robinson's call for a count of hands.
Citing the time, Hise then cut off committee questions and called a vote on the measure. It appeared to pass on party lines.