Dozens of people advocating for and against abortion rights filled a room at the North Carolina health department headquarters on Friday morning to respond to proposed rules that will apply to the 14 clinics that provide abortion in the state.
Most of the 15 people who spoke said they were pleased with the process officials from the Department of Health and Human Services followed to draft the rules because they included input from medical professionals. They also said they hoped the rule-writing process would not be "politicized," given the emotional nature of issues related to abortions.
"We want women to have full access to reproductive health care," said Sarah Preston, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. "We don't want [health officials] to get pulled into that emotional debate. Let's keep this about health."
A handful of speakers at the hearing criticized the rules because they said they're not strict enough on issues such as annual inspections of clinics and patient transfer agreements with hospitals.
"These abortion clinics are being given a pass on some of the requirements that normal, everyday outpatient centers have to abide by," said Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the North Carolina Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald
Friday morning’s hearing, held at the health department headquarters near downtown Raleigh, was the only public hearing in the rule-writing process. The department is taking written comments through Jan. 30. If any 10 people in the state object to the rules once they’re written, a panel in the General Assembly could review them.