Raleigh, N.C. — The Senate gave key approval Thursday to a proposal requiring schools to teach students that abortion causes premature births, after the sponsor added instruction of other risk factors to the bill.
A final vote on Senate Bill 132 could come Monday, following a 41-5 vote on second reading.
The bill had said that the state's mandated health curriculum on reproductive health and safety should include information about the preventable causes of premature births, but it singled out only abortion as a "cause of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies."
Sponsor Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, said dozens of studies have linked abortions with premature births, and state estimates show hospitalizing these preemies cost $98.8 million in North Carolina last year.
"There's a remarkable similarity between the level of risk for preterm birth associated with smoking and the level of risk for preterm birth associated with induced abortion in a previous pregnancy," Daniel said. "If there's a rationale for including the risks of smoking in preconception education, there's a rationale for including the risks of previous induced abortions."
Still, Daniel said, the heated discussion of the measure in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday prompted him to offer an amendment that would add smoking, drinking, drug use and poor prenatal care to the list of risk factors for premature birth that would be included in instruction.
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said she also would like to add to the list of taught risk factors elective premature deliveries, whether induced or Cesarean section, that are done simply for the convenience of the mother or her obstetrician.
"All pregnancies should be carried to full term," said Kinnaird, who plans to offer an amendment to that effect before the final Senate vote on the bill.
Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, was the only senator to speak against the bill, saying there is much disagreement in the medical community about the link between abortion and subsequent premature deliveries. She expressed concern that anyone who presents a conflicting opinion in a classroom might be disciplined for violating the law.
"The correlation between abortion and preterm delivery is not well settled science," Bryant said. "I'm concerned about teaching our students what is our opinion, religious belief, philosophical belief (or) minority expert point of view as some absolute science or medical evidence."