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New abortion clinic rules proposed in NC

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed set of guidelines for abortion clinics Monday. The law gave DHHS the authority to develop rules using the same standards that regulate outpatient surgery centers.

Some groups have seen the regulations as a means to limit abortion access for women — and they’ve said the rules could hinder the ability of abortion clinics to remain open.

“Make no mistake about it. The law that forced these rules to be written was backed by politicians with a single goal — to prevent women in North Carolina from accessing safe, legal abortion care,” said Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, in a statement.

The group is supportive of regulations that would help protect patients, but the restrictions passed by the N.C. General Assembly are not medically necessary, Buckley said.

Sarah Eldred, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, said the group will continue to work for abortion access in the state.

“Planned Parenthood’s top priority is the health and safety of our patients, and we continually seek ways to improve patient services and our already high standard of care,” she said in an email.

As DHHS was drafting the new guidelines, they consulted Planned Parenthood and sought its input as a health care provider and a women’s health care expert, Eldred said.

Before the new guidelines are approved, DHHS will have a 60-day public comment period and a public hearing. Buckley said NARAL representatives are planning to have their voices heard.

“NARAL Pro-Choice N.C. will do everything possible to amplify the perspectives of women’s health experts, abortion providers and concerned citizens who believe that women’s health, safety and wellbeing — not a political agenda — should come first in North Carolina,” Buckley said.

Mara Buchbinder, a UNC assistant professor of social medicine, has conducted research surrounding the Woman’s Right to Know Act. She said her research suggests that complying with new laws can be costly and time-consuming for abortion clinics.

“I know from the work that I did with the Woman’s Right to Know Act that providers had to devote a lot of critical resources, time and money to comply with the law,” said Buchbinder.

Buchbinder said the regulations are a drain on clinics’ ability to provide abortion care.

“The law had nothing to do with keeping women safe, and everything to do with making it practically impossible for North Carolina women to access abortion care,” Buckley said.

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