Women in North Carolina will soon be required to undergo state counseling, an ultrasound and a 24-hour waiting period before getting an abortion. That’s according to a new law passed yesterday by state legislators. The governor had vetoed the “Woman’s Right to Know Act” during the regular legislative session, but the North Carolina House overrode that veto yesterday by one vote.
Barbara Holt is the president of North Carolina Right to Life- a group that’s one of the biggest advocates of House Bill 854. Holt says she first knew the measure had a chance of passing last year. That’s when the Republican-led House and Senate elected leaders who support limits on abortion.
Barbara Holt: "Our hopes were raised quite a bit, and we’re very excited to see that it’s come to pass, what we’ve hoped for, worked for for so many years. "
Holt has spent many late nights at the legislature this year, lobbying lawmakers for their support. Yesterday she said she was grateful.
Holt: "It’s been really a team effort by lots of people from various organizations, people in the grass roots that care deeply about this issue, women in particular that regret their abortion, who feel that they were robbed because they didn’t get the information they needed to make an informed decision."
Holt says the measure means that women will have more time to think before receiving an abortion. Health providers will have to give women information listing alternatives to the procedure, including carrying a baby to term. They must provide patients with an ultrasound, describe the development of the fetus, and give women the opportunity to listen to the fetal heartbeat. Republican representative Warren Daniel said the measure’s 24-hour waiting period will help women reconsider receiving the procedure.
Warren Daniel: "If a 24-hour waiting period saves one life, I would hope that all of us here would likewise agree that any inconvenience to the doctor or patient was also worth it and was insignificant. Because every life has dignity and value, and every person bears the mark of almighty God. "
But many Democratic lawmakers expressed deep dissatisfaction on the House floor yesterday. They were openly skeptical about what they said were efforts to portray physicians as needing more help to explain what abortion means to their patients.
Eric Mansfield: "If this is about abortion, then make it about abortion, and vote against it. If this is about informed consent, you have not one shred of evidence to prove that physicians in this state and this procedure are not giving informed consent. "
Democratic Senator Eric Mansfield is a physician from Fayetteville. He says the law of informed consent already requires doctors make sure patients understand what surgery entails including its risks.
Mansfield: "Not one piece of scientific peer reviewed journal has ever come across my desk that proves your point. And if we as a body are going to be about evidence, you have none. If it’s going to be about policy, you have none. If it’s about politics, you win the day. "
But well before Mansfield began speaking, many of his colleagues and onlookers knew the measure was likely to become law. The House overrode it on Tuesday. In the Senate yesterday the override hinged on one vote- Republican Senator Stan Bingham, who voted against the measure during the regular session. He excused himself from the chamber not long before the measure came up so a smaller three-fifths majority could succeed in the override. Paige Johnson is with Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.
Paige Johnson:" Senator Bingham shares our belief that women should be able to make these deeply personal and private health care decisions. Unfortunately he wasn’t willing to stay and vote in that way. But certainly Senator Bingham is not the leader. The new majority in North Carolina clearly committed to putting politics before womens’ lives. "
The measure will make North Carolina the tenth state in the country to enact an abortion-related law that requires an ultrasound. It will join about 25 states that mandate counseling and waiting periods. The measure will become law in about ninety days.