Abortion legislation pending for NC lawmakers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 25, 2013

RALEIGH (AP) — Republican legislators are waiting until the end of their annual session to consider adopting new abortion rules that supporters say would make the procedure safer for women. Opponents say they’re aimed at restricting the ability of women to have abortions in North Carolina by forcing clinics to close.
The GOP-led Legislature was expected to decide Thursday whether to give the state Department of Health and Human Services the authority to regulate abortion clinics with the same standards as outpatient surgical centers “while not unduly restricting access.” Lawmakers are expected to close their annual session early Friday.
Gov. Pat McCrory threatened to veto abortion regulations that didn’t leave the rules to the judgment of the state health agency. The Republican governor said that legislation crossed the line between protecting patient safety and restricting access to a legal medical procedure. McCrory said during his campaign that he would not sign any new abortion restrictions into law.
NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, Planned Parenthood and others said they delivered petitions Thursday containing the signatures of tens of thousands of residents who oppose the proposed new regulations.
Existing abortion clinic regulations haven’t been changed since the mid-1990s, state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos said earlier this month. Since there are only 10 inspectors reviewing hundreds of clinics and health facilities statewide, clinics can be examined only every three to five years, she said.
Only one abortion operator in North Carolina is a licensed ambulatory surgical center. Many of the other 15 clinics in the state won’t be able to comply with the regulations because it will be too costly to upgrade their facilities, women’s health groups said.
An ambulatory surgical center costs about $1 million more to build than an abortion clinic, state Division of Health Service Regulation director Drexdal Pratt told lawmakers earlier this month. It’s unclear how much it would cost existing clinics to convert to higher standards and how many clinics could meet them and remain open, Pratt said.
The bill also would prohibit abortions for gender selection and allow any health-care provider to opt out of participating in abortions, extending that option beyond doctors and nurses. The legislation also would prohibit abortion coverage in insurance plans offered by cities, counties or the online marketplace for private policies established under the federal health overhaul law.