Pictured: Planned Parenthood protest of proposed abortion restrictions
CHAPEL HILL – Following an impassioned debate, the state House voted Thursday 74-41 in favor of new regulations on abortion clinics in North Carolina. The measure now returns to the Senate for final approval before going to Governor Pat McCrory.
WCHL spoke with state Senator Ellie Kinnaird (Dem. Orange and Chatham Counties) Wednesday about the controversial process by which these measures moved through the General Assembly.
“You have to have an issue that is germane, or related in other words. When they took this abortion bill, they took it out on a motorcycle bill and there ain’t nothing germane about motorcycles and abortions,” Kinnaird said.
It was case of déjà vu Wednesday after the House mimicked actions taken by Senate last week by tacking abortions restrictions onto an unrelated bill with little public notice.
Senate Bill 353, the new abortion bill passed Thursday, was originally a bill about motorcycle safety. It was re-titled “Health and Safety Law Changes” after abortion regulations from a completely separate bill were added and then passed by a House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
Women’s groups cried foul as there was no public notice that the abortion-related provisions would be on the calendar Wednesday, calling it a sneak attack.
Kinnaird said these tactics are common place in politics, saying that Democrats used similar strategies when they held the majority power.
“It’s is crazy, but things are crazy over here. You would have thought they would have found a health bill—surely there are some health bills sitting around that they could have added it into. But it is crazy over here, why not one more crazy thing they must have thought?”
Governor Pat McCrory threatened to veto the first abortion bill, House Bill 695, saying that significant changes and clarifications were necessary. Yet after Judiciary Committee made some changes to the new abortion bill Wednesday, many said the tweaks were only “modest” and that the language of the bill was still unclear.
Kinnaird said that she was pleased with the changes, calling them “significant.”
“It’s a better bill in terms of the Governor’s reaction. I want to say that all over the place, the Governor and his administration are really beginning to react.”
She explained that the bill asks the Department of Health and Human Services to write regulations for abortion clinics “similar” to those for ambulatory surgery centers, “while not unduly restricting access,” according to what was said in the committee hearing. Kinnaird also said the bill does not require a doctor to be present during all phases of a non-surgical, drug-induced abortion.
She said the changes, forced by the governor’s veto threats, do reflect that he is listening to what opponents of the restrictions are saying.
“It was an acknowledgement that there is a great deal of disagreement in the administration and the legislature on how to move forward with some of these issues,” she said.
Kinnaird said that Republican lawmakers are not as unified as they once were heading into the final weeks of the legislative session.
“The cracks are widening and how wide they will get, I don’t know,” she said.
The bill is almost certain to go into law at this point, though Kinnaird anticipates the regulations will likely generate Constitutional issues in the courts for some time.