An N.C. Senate bill that would regulate abortion physicians and procedures is raising concerns among groups who say it could close abortion clinics across the state.
The bill, filed last week, would require physicians performing abortions at a clinic to obtain admitting privileges from a hospital within 30 miles of the site.
Admitting privileges allow physicians to practice in a hospital.
The bill would also require physicians to stay with their patients throughout the abortion procedure and recovery period.
Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, and a sponsor of the bill, said it would protect women’s health and allow physicians to respond quickly in emergency situations.
The bill also addresses complaints by emergency room doctors that some abortion physicians do not have admitting privileges, Daniel said.
But legal abortions are procedures safer than childbirth, said Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. The group rallied against the bill Wednesday near the state legislature in Raleigh.
Buckley said she believes the bill is designed to close abortion clinics in the state.
North Carolina has eight abortion clinics, and 86 percent of counties do not have an abortion provider, she said. She said some clinics might not be within 30 miles of a hospital.
“The biggest issue is that there is no way to require hospitals to force doctors to have admitting privileges,” she said.
If the bill passes, an additional bill requiring hospitals to grant admitting privileges will be needed, Buckley said.
After a similar bill was passed in Mississippi last year, many hospitals refused to give admitting privileges to abortion clinics, causing all but one clinic to close, Buckley said.
Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said sponsors of the bill did not seek enough input from individual health care providers.
“They are overstepping boundaries into the arena of medical care,” she said. “That’s really the role of the business of health care and medical care.”
Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life, a group opposed to abortions, said she supports the bill, but hopes amendments will address chemical abortions. Holt said her main concern is the abortion drug, Mifepristone.
According to an FDA report, the drug caused 14 maternal deaths in the U.S. between September 2000 and April 2011.
Daniel said the bill is intended to affect both chemical and surgical abortions, but might change while it is discussed in committees.
Insko said she believes the bill will pass because of Republican majorities at the legislature.
Republicans previously overrode a veto by former Gov. Bev Perdue to enact a 2011 bill into law, which requires women to wait 24 hours before obtaining an abortion.
“This is a civil liberties issue,” Insko said. “You can’t impose your own religious beliefs on other people.”
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