North Carolina Republicans may restrict women's reproductive rights -- again. On Wednesday, the state Senate will vote on House Bill 695, which Republican Sen. Buck Newton introduced and added to another bill on Sharia Law. The legislation poses statewide restrictions on abortions if passed. The bill would require, among other things:
• Abortion clinics to have a similar licensing process to outpatient surgical clinics.
• Doctors to be present during a medical abortion -- one that is induced via drug.
• Abortion clinics to have transfer agreements -- similar to abortion clinic doctors having admitting privileges -- with local hospitals.
This bill doesn't make abortions safer for women --- it hampers their access to quality healthcare. Melissa Reed, Vice President of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood Health Systems, said higher risk procedures like oral surgery and colonoscopies are outside of these potential guidelines for abortions. The four Planned Parenthood clinics in North Carolina don't meet this proposed standard for outpatient surgical clinics -- only one unidentified clinic in North Carolina does, meaning the other clinics could be forced to shut down if they can't meet those requirements.
This vote is particularly sneaky timing-wise with the upcoming July 4 weekend and lack of notice to those other than religious and moral lobbyists. Pro-choice advocates, including Planned Parenthood, didn't even know the bill was coming, but The Family Policy Council, Christian Action League and N.C. Values Coalition did. They were in the room for the initial committee debate and then the Senate floor debate.
As a woman and resident of North Carolina for 18 years, I've been outraged by how the local General Assembly has been setting back women's reproductive rights. On May 15, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that allows employers and pharmacists to not cover or provide contraception to women based on moral objections. It's strange to live in a state where my birth control pills are free under my insurance through the national Affordable Care Act but a local employer could refuse them at all because it goes against their religious or moral beliefs.
The vote on House Bill 695 is expected to start as soon as 9 a.m. Wednesday. If passed, it would go on to the House for approval.
I for one can't bear to see another anti-women's rights bill become law in my state. Call and email our North Carolina senators and tell them to not vote for this legislation. And when we find ourselves in another election year, we must back local and national candidates that support women's rights.