Laura Leslie: “If you’re elected governor, what further restrictions on abortion would you agree to sign?”

Pat McCrory: “None.”

That was the promise now Governor McCrory made in October of 2012 during a gubernatorial debate. His answer was surprising and made headlines across the state. Unfortunately the Governor recently had a change of heart and stands poised to sign into law a host of new abortion restrictions (SB 353) that were recently passed by the General Assembly. Among those restrictions is a mandate that health care plans offered by local governments don’t cover abortion.

On the surface this restriction might not seem onerous, but the realities of private insurance plans complicate the issue. In 2002, when the most recent data was available, 87% of private insurance plans covered medically necessary or appropriate abortions. This doesn’t count plans that only covered abortion under limited circumstances such as rape, incest or life of the mother. By passing new restrictions on cash-strapped municipalities, the state is effectively removing 90% of the competition for health insurance.

Such an intrusion into the free market is hard to reconcile with public comments made by Republican leaders. Conservatives often use the ‘invisible hand’ of the market to justify weakening the social safety net or moving forward with fracking, despite the dangers. On the other hand, when they have a chance to restrict a woman’s right to choose, the free market takes a back seat.

Through this dissonance we can see their hypocrisy. These aren’t the actions of Representatives with deeply held values and principles. They are the actions of opportunists; looking for any justification to pass the ultra-conservative agenda they promised donors and supporters.

In response, nearly 40 local elected officials have already signed on to an open letter opposing SB 353. Included among the signatories were Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschimdt, Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton and a host of other Orange county officials.

These local leaders understand the challenge of balancing a budget in difficult economic times. They need to be empowered to come up with innovative solutions to the problems they face, not to be hamstrung by bureaucrats in Raleigh. Recent polling shows that a strong plurality of voters are opposed to SB 353 and hope McCrory won’t sign it. This puts McCrory and the Republicans on the wrong side of public opinion and sound public policy, let’s hope they realize before it’s too late.