Abortion bill passes NC House, triples wait time for women seeking abortion

Published: Apr. 23, 2015 at 3:08 PM EDT|Updated: May. 23, 2015 at 4:30 PM EDT
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A controversial abortion bill that triples the wait time for women seeking an abortion was approved by the NC House on Thursday by a vote of 74-45.

Titled House Bill 465, there are two main provisions. One would require doctors to report abortions after twenty weeks to the Department of Health and Human Services, while the other provision would extend the waiting time from 24 to 72 hours between a woman's consultation and the procedure.

"Instead of respecting a woman's private medical decisions, this shameful bill is based on the condescending notion that a woman can't or won't take the time she needs to consult with her doctor and make the best decision for her own circumstances," said Sarah Preston, Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. "In medical situations, there is never a one-size-fits-all solution. The government has no business interfering in health care decisions made by a woman and her doctor and making what can be a difficult situation even more challenging."

A bill passed in 2011 enacted the 24 hour waiting period and required abortion providers to show ultrasounds to women who were having abortions.

There are currently twenty six states that require a waiting period and most of those are for 24 hours.

If the bill becomes law, North Carolina would join three other states, Missouri, South Dakota, and Utah, with a 72 hour waiting period.

The Health Committee passed the bill along party lines. Republicans supported the bill while Democrats on the committee were opposed.

"These are additional restrictions on women's access to abortion care in this state," Melissa Reed, Executive Director for Planned Parenthood Health Services Action Fund told WBTV.  "They are unnecessary and arbitrary interferences in a woman's ability to make these very, very private and personal decisions."

Critics called the bill "patronizing and dangerous," and say it restricts the options available to women by extending the waiting period. Supporters say women should be given time to think about the decision to terminate the pregnancy.

"I know it's obviously a stressful situation," Emma Stoneberg told WBTV.  Stoneberg is a senior at Catawba College and describes herself as pro-choice but does not think the extended wait time is unreasonable.  "I don't restrict someone's choice but I think if you're going to make a large decision like that it's probably the best that you do have time to think about it."

Republican sponsor Pat McElraft of Emerald Isle says the extension ensures women have more time to obtain more information about abortion and potentially change their mind.

In a passionate floor speech in which she described her own personal history, Democratic Rep. Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County said the extension demeans women by suggesting they are not capable of deciding on a very personal decision.  Cotham shared her personal story of having an abortion years ago due to her own health issues.

"It's playing with women's lives," Cotham told WBTV after the vote.  "Their bill would have likely caused me my life because of the waiting period and because of my particular situation. Timing was a matter for me. It was not easy and I still live with that every day."

Representative Carl Ford, a Republican who represents parts of Rowan and Cabarrus, says the bill will save lives.

"I'm happy with it, anytime we can save a life, save lives," Ford told WBTV while driving back to the district from the vote in Raleigh.  "There are an awful lot of people out there who are ready to adopt babies, ready to help with every aspect of having a baby. This just gives people more time to think about and hopefully it will save many many lives."

"Because the Republicans have the majority control of the legislature, this is a core philosophical and ideological issue that really hits home with the base of the Republican party," Dr. Michael Bitzer, Provost of Catawba College in Salisbury and noted political observer told WBTV.  "And that's why they're bringing up these kinds of measure, to really continue the discussion about abortion, Pro-Life, Choices and consider what the state can do to perhaps slow the process down in terms of women seeking abortions."

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