Cover Story: New NC Abortion Law

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The controversy surrounding abortion in America.. comes to North Carolina.

On Wednesday, a new law takes effect that for the first time puts restrictions on women seeking abortions in the state.

But the law goes on the books without one key provision and it's the most controversial part of this new law.

Supporters say they're only giving women all the information they need to make an informed choice when having an abortion.

Opponents say it's a most extreme example of government intrusion into the private matters of individual citizens.

The state already requires women who have abortions to have an ultrasound.

The new law passed by the General Assembly this summer goes a step farther - requiring abortion providers put the image of the fetus in a place where the woman may view it, also offer the woman a chance to listen to the fetal heart beat.

NC Representative Ruth Samuelson of Charlotte was a key backer of the bill.

"In my judgement it was a safe and necessary step to make sure women have the information they need at a critical time," said Samuelson.

But opponents went to federal court in Greensboro and argued that the new law violates the rights of health care providers and women seeking abortions.

Katy Parker is with the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation.

"This is one of the most private relationships people can have," Parker said, "the relationship between doctor and patient.  And what the state has done here has intruded into that very private relationship."

The federal judge agreed, on Tuesday striking down that provision of the new abortion law.

Bebe Anderson is the lead attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups who sued.

"The government was going to require that the physician serve as its mouthpiece to deliver its message to the woman about what she should be thinking about and how she should make her decision," said Anderson.

But supporters say the law is about giving women vital information.

"It's been my experience for all these years that women.. many women regret their abortions. And they regret them because they didn't have adequate information," said Jackie Bonk with the Catholic Diocese's Pro-Life Office in Raleigh.

She works with women considering abortions.  Bonk added, "I have heard so many times their concern being.. I didn't know. I had no idea. At 22 weeks there's a heartbeat. Knowing that hearing that makes a difference."

Other parts of the law were allowed to stand and took effect on Wednesday, including requiring women wait at least 24 hours between scheduling the abortion and having the procedure.

And a requirement that women be given extensive medical information on abortion, the risks and alternatives.

The part of the law the judge struck down is only temporary.  It's a temporary injunction until both sides make arguments again in December.

Opponents are hoping to prevail.  They hope that the judge's ruling will stand.

"Well, we certainly think it should," said Anderson.  "We think that there's constitutional violations, clear free speech violations from this law."

The abortion bill became law in July when the Republican-dominated Legislature overrode Democratic Governor Perdue's veto.

The case goes back to federal court December 5th.  It'll be an opportunity for the state to try to persuade the judge to modify her preliminary injunction.  Opponents are hoping it will become a permanent injunction.

Federal judges have struck down similar laws in two states, in Texas and Oklahoma.

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