Groups give GOP-led legislature failing grade on women's issues

Posted April 30, 2012 5:13 p.m. EDT
Updated April 30, 2012 6:46 p.m. EDT

— NC Women United, a coalition of left-leaning women's groups, on Monday gave the Republican leaders in the state House and Senate failing grades on women's issues for their work in the last legislative session.

President Jina Dhillon said the grades are part of the worst legislative report card NC Women United has ever issued.

"When you look at the report card, it's just boom, boom, boom, hit after hit on all fronts, in terms of economic self-sufficiency, access to health care, civic participation. It's just extremely disappointing," Dhillon said.

The report card cited several bills that the group says are harmful to women. One is the Women's Right to Know Law, which requires physicians to show an ultrasound to women seeking an abortion and explain to them what they're seeing.

Rep. Diane Parfitt, D-Cumberland, said she finds that law demeaning to women.

"This is probably the most difficult decision a woman has to make. I don't know of a woman who would do that lightly," said Parfitt, who is a nurse. "So, she doesn't need an added burden, an added obstruction, an added confrontation."

Another law singled out by NC Women United is a budget provision that bans the state from making grants to Planned Parenthood. Parfitt says state money already cannot be used for abortions.

"It is specifically used for contraception counseling, for breast cancer and cervical cancer screening and for education," she said.

Federal judges have issued temporary stays against the Planned Parenthood funding ban and parts of the new abortion restrictions law.

The coalition of women's groups also said that the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman as the only legal domestic relationship in North Carolina could harm unmarried women and that legislation that would require voters to present identification at the polls would disproportionately affect women because they're less likely than men to have a state-issued ID.

Republican women called the report card a partisan scare tactic.

"As a woman, I am somewhat offended by the assertion that our policies are somehow directly aimed at restricting women's rights" said Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake.

Avila pointed out that Republican women all voted for the measures cited by NC Women United.

"Rhetoric of this type is unproductive and unnecessary," she said.