Local Politics

Wake County reinstates abortion coverage

Posted March 15, 2010 5:12 p.m. EDT
Updated March 16, 2010 9:56 a.m. EDT

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— The Wake County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to resume insurance coverage of elective abortions for employees.

Commissioner Harold Webb, who is recovering from a stroke, called the meeting and cast a vote by phone to break the board's 3-3 deadlock on the issue. The vote broke along party lines, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it.

County Manager David Cooke had eliminated the coverage last month, citing a 1981 state Supreme Court ruling that the county attorney believed barred the use of tax dollars for elective abortions.

County officials apparently didn't notice when its insurance provider added the elective abortions coverage to the county's plan in 1999.

Commissioner Stan Norwalk disagreed with that interpretation and said the board should have voted on the decision to remove abortion coverage from the county's insurance policy.

Norwalk said fewer than 20 women have had county-funded abortions in the last five years.

Republican commissioners said Norwalk's resolution was written by an adviser to Planned Parenthood.

"Our county attorney, our legal adviser has advised us that having county-funded abortions is illegal," Commissioner Joe Bryan said. "You're taking other people's interpretation over our trusted county attorney's."

Commissioner Lindy Brown countered by saying that even Cooke and the county attorney can make mistakes.

"We just want to make sure that the county manager and attorney (don't take) authority without coming to this board," Brown said.

The change in the insurance coverage will take effect by Friday.