Proposed N.C. Abortion Restrictions Reduce Women’s Safety, Opponents Say

NORTH CAROLINA — Recently proposed bills in the North Carolina House and Senate aim to tighten restrictions on abortion.

A key point in House Bill 465 would extend waiting periods between when women consult with their doctors and when they can obtain an abortion. The waiting period under current state law is 24 hours — the bill would triple that to 72 hours.

“That bill is one of the most extreme waiting periods in the U.S.,” said Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Currently, only three states have a 72-hour waiting period.”

Oklahoma legislators recently passed a bill that would extend that state’s wait period to 72 hours — meaning that North Carolina could become one of just five states with such a restriction, if House Bill 465 becomes law.

Another provision in the bill bans hospitals in the University of North Carolina Health Care System from performing abortions, except in cases where carrying the pregnancy to term would threaten the life of the mother, or when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.

“Combine this extreme waiting period with the ban on abortions performed at UNC System Hospitals — where patients with the highest risk of complications go to receive top-of-the-line care — and the law actually reduces women’s safety, rather than enhancing it as [bill sponsor] Rep. McElraft has claimed,” said Chavi Koneru, policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina.

Though McElraft said the proposed three-day wait isn’t aimed at restricting women’s access to abortion, some experts disagree.

“Waiting periods are unnecessary, because we know that over 90 percent of women have made the decision to get an abortion before they pick up the phone to make the appointment,” said Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate with the Guttmacher Institute. “These types of restrictions then only serve to delay access to services.”

Also in the works is Senate Bill 604, dubbed the “Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015.” This bill outlines various certification requirements for facilities providing abortions.

“These bills also impose a range of requirements on abortion providers, from inspections to a transfer agreement with a hospital, as well as limiting access to abortion and abortion training at two public universities,” Nash said. “Taken together, these types of requirements impact not only the care women receive, but the ability for physicians to be able to provide abortion services. We have seen similar laws related to clinic regulations and abortion training enacted recently in states such as Arizona, Alabama, and Kansas.”

Even those who believe abortion is not an option they would choose believe politicians are ill-equipped to practice medicine.
Chavi Koneru, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina
If restrictions become too burdensome, it could drive women away from getting the care they need, according to Allen.

“Tripling the amount of time a woman is forced to wait between receiving counseling and receiving abortion care can have dangerous consequences,” she said. “Mandatory delays like this could force women to delay obtaining care. It could force a woman to forgo obtaining care altogether.”

On a national level, American dissatisfaction with current abortion policies is growing, according to a Gallup poll from February. Researchers found that dissatisfaction was highest among Republicans, who tended to want stricter laws.

Even when considering the political climate, however, experts say the N.C. bills might not go over well with the public.

“Even those who believe abortion is not an option they would choose believe politicians are ill-equipped to practice medicine,” Koneru said.

As of April 2, House Bill 465 had been referred to the Committee on Health, according to the N.C. General Assembly’s website. Senate Bill 604 was referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate on March 30.