Abortion bill clears Senate, returns to House

Posted June 1, 2015 7:58 p.m. EDT
Updated June 1, 2015 9:26 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Senate voted 32-16 Monday in favor of a measure that would triple the wait for women seeking abortions and impose other restrictions on the controversial procedure.

Before approving the bill, senators did soften one part of the bill that would have limited the number of doctors who can provide abortions.

The measure now returns to the House, laden with measures unrelated to abortion. In an effort to increase its appeal, senators added measures that would crack down on sex offenders who commit crimes in other states and move to North Carolina and would make it easier for women to seek legal protection from domestic violence.

But the centerpiece of the bill, and its most politically volatile element, remains abortion.

"We should not be in the business of making decisions for women," said Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford.

Under the bill, the time between when a woman seeking abortion first consults with a doctor and can legally have the procedure will move from 24 hours to 72 hours. The bill would also require doctors who perform an abortion when the fetus is more than 16 weeks old to transmit ultrasounds to the Department of Health and Human Services in Raleigh.

After last Thursday's debate on the bill, no proponent felt the need to debate the measure. Instead, opponents took turns blasting the measure before it passed.

Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, said the measure appears to "oppress women" and said the waiting period does not serve a medical purpose.

"We continue to ignore the best way to do away with abortions, which is to provide comprehensive, contraceptive services," Bryant said.

Should it pass the House, the bill would once again put Gov. Pat McCrory in a tough spot. During a 2012 debate, McCrory pledged not to sign any measure further increasing access to abortion. In recent weeks, he has not said specifically whether he would sign or veto the bill or allow it to go into law without his signature.

"I'm going to let that process work out," McCrory said in recent comments to reporters, pointing to past objections about content in the bill. "It's very difficult for me to comment on bills that have yet to be passed."

Senators did make a few last-minute changes to the bill.

As it had been drafted, only doctors board certified as ob-gyns would be able to provide abortions. That would have left roughly 40 of North Carolina's 100 counties without a doctor who could provide the service. Senators changed that language to require a doctor be "sufficiently trained" based on existing medical standards to deal with complications from abortions.

Senators rejected a measure that would have forbidden the Division of Adult Corrections from shackling women who are in labor. Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said that eschewing shackles was already agency policy and therefore unneeded.