“Motorcycle Vagina” Bill One Year Later

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the legislature’s greatly unfavorable bill, SB 353, also known as the “Motorcycle Vagina” bill.

The “Motorcycle Vagina” bill was originally presented to the Senate as a bill that would increase methods of motorcycle safety. However, in reality, the majority of SB 353 was actually dedicated to accessibility of abortion, which made it difficult for women to access sanitary and reliable clinics. Additionally, it prohibited insurance plans, even those under the Affordable Care Act, to pay for abortions as well as required the presence of a doctor at all times when a patient is given drugs for inducing abortions.

Abortion rights advocates in North Carolina say they are in the dark about the new rules required by the year-old law that they fear could effectively shut down many of the state’s clinics.

The law will require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgical centers. The state has 15 abortion clinics. The only facility that had met the current standards for surgical centers no longer provides abortions.

Lawmakers and groups like Planned Parenthood are waiting for the state Department of Health and Human Services to draft new rules, but say they’ve heard nothing yet on what they will look like.

The agency would not comment on what the rules would include, but said that it is still working on writing them. The legislature did not set a deadline for when the rules had to be completed.

Despite the disapproval of a vast number of North Carolina citizens, the bill was introduced in the middle of the night, which sparked immense controversy over women’s rights in the previous session.

Speaker of the House and now Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Thom Tillis was one of the politicians that worked to make certain that this bill was passed. He continued to push this bill; despite the 80 percent of voters in North Carolina that believed it was not appropriate to include restrictions on abortion within a bill about motorcycle safety.

Some politicians spoke out claiming that they did not even know that these changes had been made to include legislation about abortion availability, while others voted despite the abortion pieces in order to increase safety for motorcyclists.

There was even a Moral Monday protest, focusing exclusively on women’s rights and leadership, which followed the passing of the infamous bill. It ended up being one of the largest turn-outs the protest event has seen, and ended in hundreds of arrests.

SB 353 proved to be a seriously controversial bill that had some calling into question the morality and acceptability of utilizing one particular proposal to pass legislation regarding something that is wholly unrelated. Opponents said it significantly jeopardized women’s rights and created a highly unfavorable situation for all members of the North Carolina Senate.


House Approves Proposed NC Abortion Regulations

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.


Rep Insko Questions Motives Behind Abortion Bill

RALEIGH – In yet another surprise move coming out of Raleigh, the state House answered a veto threat from Gov. Pat McCrory by altering proposed abortion restrictions passed by the Senate and tacking them on another bill about motorcycle safety. Representative Verla Insko, of Orange County, has been outspoken against abortion restrictions and questioned the motives of Republican lawmakers to push the legislation through.

“No one who believes in a thriving democracy should avoid or be opposed to open and transparent process with a vigorous debate on both sides of the issue. They clearly did not want to expose themselves to transparency,” Insko said.

Last week, the original abortion regulations were unexpectedly attached to House Bill 695, buried under legislation on Sharia law. Those restrictions 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. HB 695 moved through the Senate in less than 24 hours, just before the July Fourth holiday, and with little public notice. The bill then returned to the House for a final vote of concurrence.

After public backlash, however, the bill’s approval was halted Tuesday for a two-hour public hearing held by the House Health and Human Services Committee.  It was decided further changes and clarifications were necessary before the bill could move forward.  During that hearing, Insko was very outspoken about the potential consequences of preventing women from having safe abortions.

By Wednesday morning, the abortion-related provisions from HB 695 were then transferred to Senate Bill 353— the motorcycle safety bill. The new version of Senate Bill 353 was then passed by a House Judiciary Committee later in the day.

“They want to reach their goals in the dark of the night to the extent that they can. I don’t think North Carolinians will accept the process, much less the outcome,” Insko said.

Insko said the changes made by the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday were “modest,” and restrictive, and the language of the bill was still unclear. She explained that committee members only gave “vague answers” when asked what the changes would imply.

“I expect that it is the only way they could have gotten the Republican caucus in the House to agree to that language because the caucus members were clearly not of one voice on that issue,” Insko said.

As of 11:50 Wednesday morning, the new version of SB 353 was not available to the public, and McCrory announced his intent to veto HB 695 only after work was nearly complete on the alternate version SB 353, according to WRAL.

Insko said Democrats in the General Assembly and abortion-rights activists now have a mounting case against Republicans lawmakers of abusing the democratic process, as there was no notice that the abortion-related provisions would be on the calendar Wednesday, mirroring actions taken in the Senate last week.

“I’m increasingly frustrated, disappointed and agree that they are misusing their power. It really is a power move,” Insko said.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos advised state lawmakers Tuesday to update the inspection procedures for abortion clinics because they haven’t been reviewed since 1995. Insko said she supports that proposal because it will help to keep the clinics open and safe. She says the problem is that the state doesn’t provide adequate funds to carry out those inspections.

“We pass laws that create good regulations, but the inspectors are never funded. If you never see someone running a stop sign, you never get a ticket,” Insko said.

Led by Planned Parenthood, protesters have been rallying outside and inside the General Assembly since the Senate passed HB 695 last week.

“I think that the women of North Carolina are energized, and they see that their hard-fought-for civil rights are being removed. I think that you’ll see a continued effort to make sure that those are protected,” Insko said.

The new version of SB 353 will move to the House floor Thursday. If approved, it would then return to the Senate for a final vote of concurrence before going to Governor McCrory.