RALEIGH, NC (WBTV)- Gov. Pat McCrory told CBS affialiate WNCT that he would sign a new abortion restriction bill into law that passed in the North Carolina House on Thursday.
McCrory made the announcement during a stop in New Bern for lunch on Friday.
However, McCrory did say that he would still veto the version that was initially approved by the State Senate.
“No one really believes the majority’s bait and switch today,” said Representative Rick Glazier on Thursday, a Democrat from Cumberland County. “No one is persuaded the bill is about women’s health except those already persuaded.”
Hundreds from the public, both for and against the bill packed the House gallery for the debate.
“This is a woman’s health issue that matters to all the women I know,” said Alison Struble , in opposition to the bill. “I have two daughters who are going to grow up in this state and I want to make sure their reproductive rights and heath are protected.”
But Barbara Holt from North Carolina Right to Life told WBTV that the bill was needed to update regulations on abortion clinics that haven’t changed since the 1990’s.
Holt, and others, often used the debate to talk about the larger issue of abortion instead of the specific merits of the bill before the House.
“Two lives are involved, but one life is going to end because of the abortion,” Holt tod WBTV.
After the vote was taken, Speaker Thom Tillis began to compliment those in the gallery for not interrupting the debate on the House floor, but as he did, at least two opponents of the bill began screaming at Tillis, so he ordered them removed.
North Carolina House of Representatives approved the new restriction after Republicans introduced it on Wednesday by tacking it onto an unrelated bill.
Senate bill 353, one dealing with motorcycle safety, was gutted and language dealing with abortion restrictions was added.
Much of what was included came from HB695, the controversial bill that passed the Senate last week after being brought up late one afternoon without public notice and as part of a bill that dealt more with prohibiting Sharia law from being used in family court in North Carolina.
The bill will now head to the Senate. It is expected to be discussed Monday night at 7 p.m.
“It is extremely disappointing that House members have approved such sweeping restrictions on women’s health care options just one day after this proposal was unveiled to the public,” Sarah Preston, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, told WBTV. “This legislation is not designed to protect women’s health; it is designed to shut down clinics and restrict access to comprehensive and often lifesaving health care, pure and simple.”
“A woman’s decision whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term is not only extremely personal but also constitutionally protected,” she continued. “However, that private, constitutionally protected choice is rendered meaningless if women in North Carolina are prevented from having safe access to abortion care, as this bill would do for countless women across our state.”
On Wednesday morning Governor Pat McCrory said he would veto HB695 if it passed the House in its current form. The new bill includes changes to the language in the bill and calls for more dollars to be given to the Department of Health and Human Services to hire inspectors for abortion clinics.
Those changes came about after a two hour hearing before the House Health Committee on Tuesday.
The surprise inclusion of the abortion language on a motorcycle safety bill rankled some lawmakers, including Democrat Joe Sam Queen who tweeted “Abortion bill being heard in the committee I am on. The public didn’t know. I didn’t know.”
Bill sponsor Ruth Samuelson, a Republican from Charlotte said “we’re late in the session and this is the way you get things done late in the session sometimes.”
Samuelson told WBTV on Tuesday that the point of any such legislation was to improve safety for women who choose to have abortions. Opponents say new the new restrictions will force the majority of clinics in North Carolina to close, restricting access to abortion.
“If you are in the majority party and you want to accomplish what you want to accomplish, certainly,” Dr, Michael Bitzer, political scientist from Catawba College told WBTV. “From an outsider’s point of view and probably even within the Republican caucus within the House, this is suspect because this is exactly what the Republicans ran against the Democrats for when the Democrats were in the majority.”
The new language in SB353 says that a doctor “shall be physically present in the same room as the patient when the first drug or chemical is administered to the patient.”
This is different from HB695 in which the bill did not specify for non-surgical abortion procedures. There were questions raised in committee if a doctor had to be present for all three pills to be administered over a two-day period.
SB 353 still instructs Department of Health and Human Services to amend rules, but says “Department is authorized to apply any requirement for the licensure of ambulatory surgical centers to the standards applicable to the clinics certified by the Department to be suitable facilities for the performance of abortions,” but says rules should protect safety “while not unduly restricting access.”
This is was major complaint from HB695 bill opponents, who said regulating abortion clinics like ambulatory surgical centers would force all the abortion clinic, except for one in Asheville, to close because they wouldn’t be able to meet the new rules.
“Even with these changes, restricting the health care rights of women is still bad public policy and will ignite more constitutional challenges in court,” says NC Attorney General Roy Cooper in a statement.
The bill still needs to pass in the Senate before it could go to Gov. McCrory’s desk.
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