House committee makes changes to abortion bill without notice
UPDATE: Read the proposed committee changes here.
RALEIGH — A House committee offered a new version of a controversial abortion bill by gutting a motorcycle safety bill without public notice.
The bill, S353, take the Senate bill and changes language to accommodate concerns made by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Here’s a breakdown of the new language:
- Portions already passed by House remain the same: That includes banning sex-selection abortion, conscience objection by health care providers, disallowing taxpayer-funded health exchanges and insurance to pay for abortions.
- Changes to non-surgical abortion section: The new language says 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 because before, the bill did not specify for non-surgical procedures. There were questions if a doctor had to be present for all three pills to be administered over a two-day period.
- Changes to ambulatory surgical centers requirements: Still instructs DHSS to amend its 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 bill opponents, who said regulating abortion clinics like ambulatory surgical centers would force all the abortion clinic, save for one in Asheville, to close.
The bill passed out of committee along party lines, 10-5, and could come to the House floor at any time. The new language isn’t available to the public yet. It will be when the committee’s changes are read into the record during House debate.
During the committee hearing, bill sponsors said by dropping the changes in a different bill than it had been, it allowed for more debate than continuing with the senate proposal.
“Had we just voted not to concur, a conference committee would have gotten together, there would not have been public input, there would not have been committee debate and we would have sent it back,” said Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, one of the bill’s sponsors.
But opponents balked at the unannounced changes.
“We ought to have the decency and the time enough to study and know exactly what is going to happen here without having it forced on us at the very last minute,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham.
Bill supporters said the changes were in response to concerns made Gov. Pat McCrory and DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos.
But opponents said the changes would restrict access to abortion.
“The result is that, as the combination of these procedures come into play, we will have effectively eliminated almost any capacity for any woman to have an abortion in this state,” said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland. “This is really as bad a way to do a bill like this, given its history and to the extent the governor’s office is involved in creating this opportunity today, that’s disappointing.”
The Senate gutted an anti-Sharia law bill last week and replaced the language with new abortion standards, causing outcry.
Melissa Reed of Planned Parenthood said today’s action by the House was another sneak attack by the General Assembly.
“It is a disgrace to North Carolina that legislators have again resorted to sneak attacks to move their anti-women’s health agenda forward,” said Reed, in a statement. “Once again there was no public notice that this bill would be heard. The public and even many legislators on the committee only learned this was a possibility at 9:57 a.m. [three minutes before the committee was to meet] when a political reporter was tipped off and posted it on Twitter. This is outrageous and not how the people’s business should be conducted.”
Earlier in the day, Gov. Pat McCrory said he would veto the abortion bill if the General Assembly passed the bill without changes.
“I just want the bill to be the right bill passed,” he said, “and right now, the current formation of the bill, as my secretary of Health and Human Services says, does not necessarily protect the health and safety of women. I’ve sent a strong message to the House and Senate that I expect a good bill and a good process to get that bill passed, and if not, I’ve said I’ll veto it,” McCrory said.
- Loretta Boniti and Ben McNeely
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