The process that precedes abortions in North Carolina would become more complex if a bill now on Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s desk becomes law.
The bill would make N.C. the 34th state to require a counseling session prior to having an abortion procedure. Women would also have to wait 24 hours and have an ultrasound performed.
The Republican-backed legislation has received criticism from pro-choice activists who say it is a thinly veiled assault on abortion rights.
Carey Pope, executive director of National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League Pro-Choice North Carolina, said the bill unfairly targets women and physicians by further regulating an already highly regulated procedure.
“The fact of the matter is that informed consent already exists for any procedure,” she said. “Their attempt is to restrict access.”
The proposed changes to the process of getting an abortion also come on the heels of legislators’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortion, family planning and sexual health services. A provision in the state budget bars the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services from steering state or federal funds toward the organization’s clinics across the state — including one in Chapel Hill.
A recent poll released by the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, a conservative policy organization in the state, found that 56 percent of registered voters polled support the bill while 36 percent oppose it.
Eva Ritchey, president of North Carolina Pro-Life Democrats, said that the bill, also known as the “Woman’s Right to Know Act,” was crafted to ensure that women make an informed decision before having an abortion performed.
“The core purpose of the bill is to give women every piece of information that they can get before they make an irreversible decision,” she said.
The bill requires that a physician or qualified professional counsel the woman orally, either in person or via telephone, of the medical risks associated with an abortion as well as carrying the child to term. Patients would also be counseled on other options, such as adoption.
Women seeking an abortion would be required to have a real-time ultrasound with an explanation of what the display depicts, performed at least four hours before the procedure by the physician performing the abortion.
A contact list of organizations that provide this service free of charge must be given to the patient.
Alternatively, the patient may have an ultrasound performed within 72 hours of the abortion by another physician or technician. At no point would the patient be required to view the ultrasound or hear the physician’s explanation, according to the bill.
Pope said legislators were “out of touch” with the values of state residents.
But Ritchey said critics of the bill have overstated its effect on abortion access.
“This bill will not keep a single woman who wants an abortion from getting one,” she said.
Chris Mackey, press secretary for Perdue, said she is currently reviewing the bill. Perdue has until Monday to veto or sign it into law.
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