House Dem women speak out on abortion rights

Posted May 17, 2011 8:46 p.m. EDT

Women of the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference today to denounce a measure they say is aimed at curbing reproductive choice.

The target in this case is H854, called the "Women's Right to Know" Act.  It would require not only informed consent, which is already the law in NC, but that an ultrasound of the fetus be shown to a prospective abortion patient at least four hours before the procedure, regardless of the circumstances that left the woman pregnant, and regardless of what her doctor would advise.

Sponsors of the bill Reps. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, and Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, say too many women aren't fully informed of the facts of their pregnancies: the potential later health risks of abortion (which doctors themselves don't agree on), the potential psychological consequences, or even the true gestational age of the fetus. They say the proposal won't make women less able to get abortions, but those who do will be better informed about their choice. 

But opponents say that's a smokescreen. They say the increased waiting period, increased cost for an ultrasound (free ones are available, but generally only from anti-abortion groups), and state-mandated script that must be read to women seeking the procedure are all designed to make an already difficult situation more intimidating and more frightening. 

House Democratic women argued today that the measure violates the doctor-patient relationship, offers no sympathy for rape victims, and assumes that women are "stupid" when it comes to their own health. 

"This bill is discriminatory," said Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford. "Would we dare tell a man he had to sit through counseling before a vasectomy?"

"Women deserve the right to make private personal decisions," added Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, who noted that women of her generation have grown up taking reproductive choice for granted. "The state does not have a role in this hard and very personal decision. And certainly politicians don't."

Watch the whole press conference at right.