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Abortion clinic rules still in progress after a year

Last summer, the state legislature passed a law instructing the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to amend regulations for abortion clinics in the state. Abortion clinics are now supposed to follow stronger restrictions already used at surgical centers — but the department still has not finalized the new rules.

The department is following normal procedures, said Drexdal Pratt, director of the Division of Health Service Regulation, in a statement.

“The General Assembly did not mandate a timeline for completion, but DHHS is thoroughly working through the process,” Pratt said in the statement.

Paige Johnson, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Central N.C., said the law jeopardizes women’s access to safe and legal medical care.

The law limits abortion coverage by local government health insurance plans, stipulates a doctor must be present during the entire abortion procedure and protects health care providers who refuse to offer abortions based on religious objections.

“The bill’s passage was a setback for women,” Johnson said. “In the bill were all sorts of restrictions on women’s access to health care and restrictions on a woman’s right to make deeply personal pregnancy decisions.”

But Johnson said she is not aware of any abortion clinics that permanently closed based on provisions of the 2013 law.

Barbara Holt, president of the anti-abortion group N.C. Right to Life, said she is happy the law is in place because it will protect the health of mothers — but the law does not reach the group’s ultimate objective of prohibiting abortion.

“We want mothers to be taken care of, but the sad fact of the matter is that every abortion kills an unborn child,” Holt said. “The rules and regulations are not going to save those babies from dying.”

Holt said the department is likely taking the time to get input from both sides of the issue.

Once a proposal is completed, the department will host a public hearing before finalizing the regulations, said Kevin Howell, a legal spokesman for Health and Human Services, in an email.

Johnson said she hopes the department is taking its time to come up with changes based on women’s needs.

“They shouldn’t be in a hurry to do this,” Johnson said. “The only people that are in a hurry to do this and who have been in a hurry this whole process are the politicians who want to block women’s access to safe and legal care.”

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