RALEIGH – Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos advised state lawmakers Tuesday to clarify the sum of the provisions proposed in House Bill 695 to restrict abortion access. The bill moved through Senate in less than 24 hours last week, and only a needed a concurrence vote by the full House to pass. After backlash from abortion-rights activists, the House and Human Services Committee held a public hearing to discuss the bill further.
There was a clear division in the room where the hearing was held. Pro-choice supporters wore pink and anti-abortion advocates wore blue.
Outside of the State Legislative Building, protesters, including Carol Brooke of Carrboro, gathered for a rally led by Planned Parenthood against abortion restrictions.
“I would hope that Governor McCrory will remember how many women in this state helped to elect him and how many women he is representing, and that he will do the right thing and veto this bill,” Brooke said.
House Bill 695 would require abortion providers to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers, a move abortion-rights advocates say is designed to shut down providers. Only one clinic in the entire state currently meets those standards.
Governor Pat McCrory, who said last fall that he would not support further abortion restrictions, criticized the way in which House Bill 695 moved rapidly through the Senate with little public notice, buried in legislation against Sharia Law. Even if McCrory follows through on his pledge, Republicans have a veto-proof majority in both houses making the bill almost certain to pass.
Secretary Wos said that regulations and inspection procedures for abortion clinics need to be updated, saying that they haven’t been reviewed since 1995.
Micah Allen sat in the public hearing and said he is pro-life under all circumstances.
“In terms of consistency across the board with dangerous medical procedures this has to happen. It is inconsistent to argue against it and say that other procedures of a similar nature have to have a sterile environment, and a surgeon present; it really makes no sense. Logically, this bill makes a lot of sense,” Allen said.
Allen agrees with points the DHHS made, saying that certain provisions of the bill needed to be clarified to ensure the safety standards. Two abortion clinics were shut down this year in Durham and Charlotte for unsafe practices.
“I think a lot of the speakers in favor of the bill touched on the issue that has tended to be an emotional thing. Abortion has been put on a pedestal, and currently the laws have put it in another category than surgical centers. That’s unfortunate because it’s much less safe than people have presented it as,” Allen said.
Gabrielle Johnson, a UNC law student, attended Tuesday’s rally and is pro-choice. Johnson also attended last Wednesday’s impromptu demonstration of more than 600, organized in response to the bill itself as well as the way it was passed in the Senate.
“Even if it does pass, I hope that these same women who are getting rallied up at this moment for this anti-women’s rights bill will remember this during election time and will get equally excited and equally energized to remind them [the General Assembly] that if you go against us once, you’ll have to pay for it with your election and your seat,” Johnson said.
Representative Verla Insko of Orange County was outspoken during the hearing, arguing that abortion clinics protect women’s health by providing safe ways to have the procedure done. Representative Beverly Earle of Mecklenburg County said that if all but one clinic were to close, women would be forced to have abortions in the “back-room type of places.”http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/abortion-restriction-bill-will-be-reviewed-further/
RALEIGH – Protesters rallied for abortion rights at the 10th Moral Monday outside the North Carolina General Assembly, and inside, 64 people were arrested. This coming less than a week after House Bill 695, which calls for tighter abortion laws, pushed through the state Senate in less than 24 hours with little public notice.
The bill would require abortion providers to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers, a move abortion-rights advocates say is designed to shut down providers. Only one clinic in the entire state currently meets those standards.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt was one of more than a thousand who attended this week’s rally.
“It’s really shocking how this General Assembly feels that they can just railroad any respect for democratic process. They haven’t provided people even with the most basic form of notice,” Kleinschmidt said.
Kleinschmidt said he does not support the way in which House Bill 695 was tacked on to another bill and hastily passed in the Senate.
“It makes for a general outrage for the lack of respect for the people of North Carolina, accompanied by a whole array of issues,” he said.
Janet Colm, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, was among those arrested. Since the first Moral Monday in late April, more than 700 people have been arrested in the weekly protests against the legislation of the Republican-led General Assembly.
“These attacks on women’s health are dangerous and they are deeply unpopular. That’s why these politicians continue to sneak them in with special sessions, with midnight votes, and without witnesses. The North Carolina General Assembly has tried to bully, shame and dismiss North Carolina women and their families this entire session,” said Mellissa Reed of Planned Parenthood.
Christine Lang, a mom from Chatham County, said the bill was the last straw for her.
“The way they slid those abortion issues through infuriates me, not only for myself but for my daughter,” Lang said.
UNC Senior Carey Hanlin was one of many male students from Chapel Hill who attended the rally in support of women’s reproductive rights.
“Being a feminist and having a lot of female friends who are pro-choice and believe in reproductive rights brought me here. We don’t believe that it is the job of our legislature to be focused on this. Right now, there are bigger issues like the unemployment rate and we’re only going to make it worse now that the Legislature has cut unemployment benefits. That’s what really got me bothered and fired up and ready to go right now,” Hanlin said.
Junior Patrick Mateer came out to his second Moral Monday in support of his friends and his mother, and all of who could be affected by abortion restrictions.
“It’s not just a woman’s issue. We [males] can be allies. If I think a bill is wrong, though it doesn’t affect me, I still feel I should come out and try to change the Legislature’s opinion.” Mateer said.
This Moral Monday also saw a lot of newcomers, including UNC Alum Eric Martin.
“I am in agreement with the other protesters that legislation is infringing on a lot of civil liberties and destroying a lot of programs that are beneficial,” Martin said.
NAACP State chapter president and protest leader Reverend William Barber announced that next Monday’s rally will feature all female speakers. On Monday, July 22, the demonstration will focus on voting rights, education, and criminal justice. Barber also said that on August 28, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the NAACP will hold rallies in each of North Carolina’s 13 Congressional Districts.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/protesters-rally-for-abortion-rights-at-moral-mond/
CHAPEL HILL – Democratic State Senator Ellie Kinnaird of Chapel Hill and Carrboro was one of just 12 North Carolina Senators who cast a ‘no’ vote Wednesday on House Bill 695, which would severely restrict abortion in the state of North Carolina.
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The bill has sparked intense controversy across the state–not only because of its content, but also for the way it was passed: HB 695 began as a ban on the enforcement of Sharia law, but state senators amended it at the last minute (and largely out of the public eye) to include significant restrictions on abortion.
“They rammed this bill through the judiciary committee,” Sen. Kinnaird said after HB 695 passed the Senate on Wednesday. “They had not told the general public and they had not told any (abortion rights) advocates, so this was really a breach in public trust.” (Sen. Kinnaird says even she was not informed about the changes to the bill until 7:00 on Tuesday evening; the final vote was cast on Wednesday morning.)
Despite the short time frame, hundreds of North Carolinians turned out at the General Assembly Wednesday morning to demonstrate, both against the bill itself and against the way it was passed.
“I stirred them up a little bit,” says Kinnaird (who’d spoken passionately against the bill on Tuesday night). “When I first walked in and saw them, I clapped to them–and of course they just burst out in clapping.” Lt. Governor Dan Forest repeatedly silenced the crowd–one protestor was even removed from the building–but Kinnaird says “even their silent presence was very powerful.”
As amended, HB 695 includes a variety of provisions. Perhaps most notably, it would require abortion providers to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers, a move abortion-rights advocates say is designed to shut down providers. Only one clinic in the entire state currently meets those standards; all others would effectively have to close–and Kinnaird says the standards governing ambulatory centers are irrelevant when it comes to clinics that provide abortions.
“(The standards govern) the linoleum on the floor and the paint on the walls,” she says, “as well as equipment–(requiring) things that would be there in an ambulatory (center) that just aren’t necessary in an abortion clinic.”
Moreover, Kinnaird says, those ‘abortion clinics’ don’t only provide abortions. “Women, low-income women, use this as their primary health care,” she says. “They get family planning materials there, they also get cancer screening–if we close these down, these folks without insurance, low-income people, are going to really suffer (in terms of) general health care.”
Another provision of the bill would prevent city and county health plans from covering abortions as well, unless it is to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.
As always with abortion debates, Kinnaird says the discussion of HB 695 got very heated: “At the end,” she says, “one of the backers of the bill told one of our Democrats that she was going to hell and he was praying for her.” But in this case, passions flared not only because of the content of the bill, but because of the process by which it was pushed through–an issue with a long history of its own.
“At one point (in the debate), the Rules chair stood up and said, ‘Well, you Democrats did it (like this) a long time,'” Kinnaird says. Republican Governor Pat McCrory made a similar comment in a statement denouncing the procedure: “It was not right then,” he said Wednesday, “and it is not right now.” (Kinnaird too doesn’t deny that Democrats could have been more transparent when they were the majority party–but adds, “Just because somebody (else) did it doesn’t make it right.”)
House Bill 695 passed the Senate by a vote of 29-12. The amended bill still needs to be approved by the State House, but its passage seems all but certain: Governor McCrory pledged during last year’s campaign not to sign any bill that imposes further restrictions on abortion, but Republicans have a veto-proof majority in both houses even if McCrory follows through on that pledge. Indeed, notwithstanding the procedural controversy, Kinnaird concedes that the bill would likely have passed the Senate in its current form even if GOP leaders had allowed ample time for public debate.
Even if it passes the legislature, though, Kinnaird says the story will be far from over. “The Attorney General said this bill is likely to generate a lot of Constitutional issues in the courts,” she says, “so even if it passes, it’ll be in the courts for a long time.”
And while Democrats have little power to shape the discourse in Raleigh now, Kinnaird says she’s confident that this debate will contribute to an anti-GOP backlash in 2014.
“People are finally beginning to realize (that) this is an extreme group, and we know that the people of North Carolina do not want extremism,” she says. “They don’t want to be on the Jon Stewart show (or) Rachel Maddow as laughingstocks of the country…
“We used to be a beacon of light (and) a beacon of enlightenment in the South, and we are no longer that–and I know that the people of North Carolina believe that we should be that beacon of light, that beacon of enlightenment. And they’re going to, I think, really react at the polls.”http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/kinnaird-on-abortion-bill-breach-in-public-trust/
RALEIGH – Despite the efforts of an estimated 500 protesters, including Chapel Hill Town Council member Sally Greene, the state Senate approved a controversial bill Wednesday that allows for tighter abortion restrictions.
House Bill 695 passed by a vote of 29-12, and will return to the House for a final vote on the changes.
The bill was pushed through the Senate in less than 24 hours with little public notice.
“This particular act that happened last night with no procedure. It was a wake-up call. I am impressed with how quickly people became mobilized and were here to bear witness to this bill which substantially eradicated the constitutional right for a safe and legal abortion in North Carolina,” Greene said.
In response to this legislation, an impromptu protest took place outside the General Assembly Wednesday morning. It was organized by the pro-choice group, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League of North Carolina.
“It does seems to violate the kinds of processes that we have come to expect from our government at any level to allow time to deliberate what a bill is about, and what the actual consequence of it will be. It’s a terrible violation of process,” Greene said.
The new legislation would change clinic rules so they’re similar to those for ambulatory surgery centers – a move Planned Parenthood says will shut down providers. According to legislative staff, only one clinic in the state currently meets that standard. The state’s four Planned Parenthood clinics don’t meet the requirement, Greene explained. Other provisions of the bill would allow health care providers to choose not to provide abortion-related services and prohibit health federal health care plans from offering abortion coverage. It would prevent state funds from being spent on abortions, and also city/county health plans from covering abortions, unless it is to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.
“They have the numbers, the Republicans have the numbers. As Sen. Angela Bryant (Dem.) said on the floor a few hours ago, they [the Republicans] will win the day today but they are not necessarily going to win the war. This is a long process and the people of North Carolina are watching. There will be another day,” Greene said.
Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday that Senate Republicans who pushed the legislation through are completing business the same way that Democrats did when they were in charge of the General Assembly.
“It was not right then and it is not right now,” the governor said in a statement. “Regardless of what party is in charge or what important issue is being discussed, the process must be appropriate and thorough.”
Hear Greene’s full interview about the Senate’s decision:http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/amidst-protesting-nc-sen-oks-tougher-abortion-rules/
RALEIGH – The North Carolina Senate tentatively approved an unexpected abortion omnibus bill Tuesday evening in a vote of 27-14.
Senate Democrats criticized Republicans for bringing up the bill late on the day before the long July 4 weekend begins.
The proposed abortion restrictions were brought up in a Senate committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. The committee’s calendar only listed House Bill 695 on the agenda. The bill targets Islamic law in family matters such as divorce, child custody and alimony, also known as Sharia law. Republicans tacked the abortion regulations on to that bill
The new legislation would direct state regulators to change clinic rules so they’re similar to those for ambulatory surgery centers – a move Planned Parenthood says could shut down providers. According to legislative staff, only one clinic in the state currently meets that standard. The state’s four Planned Parenthood clinics don’t meet the requirement, as reported by the News and Observer. The bill would also require doctors to be present when women take drugs that induce abortions.
A final Senate vote is scheduled for Wednesday. The House also would have to approve the measure. Gov. Pat McCrory said last fall he was not in favor of signing additional abortion restrictions into law.
In response to this legislation, an impromptu protest is taking place outside the General Assembly at 9 a.m. Wednesday. It’s organized by the pro-choice group, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League of North Carolina. Chapel Hill Town Council member Sally Greene is expected to attend.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-sen-unexpectedly-tacks-abortion-restrictions-to-omnibus-bill/