Members of the N.C. House of Representatives filed two bills last week that would impose restrictions on abortions.
House Bill 53, called A Second Chance For LIFE, would require physicians to provide women with information about the possibility of the reversal of a medication abortion and have them certify in writing that they have received this information after the first drug has been administered.
Arkansas, Idaho, South Dakota and Utah all have similar laws in place, the first of which was enacted in 2015.
Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research and policy organization, said the bill is based on flawed science.
“The community had thought that we wouldn’t see this kind of legislation because it was so far out of the reality of medical practice, and the reason I say that is because there’s no evidence that supports the idea that reversing a medication abortion is really possible through the process they advise,” she said.
Kelsea McLain, the community outreach director at A Woman’s Choice, Inc. and the chairperson of the board of directors at the Carolina Abortion Fund, said this flawed science might cause confusion, as abortion care providers would be forced to mislead their patients.
“We don’t like being compelled to lie to our patients, and the medication abortion reversal bill is expressly focused on forcing us to lie to our patients,” she said.
North Carolina Right to Life said in a press release that medication abortion reversals have been successful.
“There have been over 500 mothers whose babies have been saved by the abortion pill reversal protocol. If this legislation passes, there will be many more babies saved from chemical abortions in our state,” it said.
House Bill 54, or Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment, would ban dilation and evacuation abortions, referred to as “dismemberment abortions” in the bill, except when the procedure is necessary to prevent serious health risk to the woman seeking the abortion.
Similar bills have passed in 10 states and have been challenged in court in eight of those states.
N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-District 56, said she opposes HB 53. She said she does not think it is medically accurate, but she needs to conduct more research before forming a position on HB 54.
Dilation and evacuation is the most common abortion procedure done during the second trimester of pregnancy, according to a press release from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists from 2015.
Nash said that since North Carolina has a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, and D&E is the primary method used for abortions at 14 or 15 weeks, that means the legislation is trying to limit the time span without expressly violating current law.
McLain also said the bill might have deeper implications.
“The only type of procedure we do at the clinic is the dilation and evacuation procedure, so effectively they would be eliminating the safest form of abortion in the state,” she said.
Insko said she thinks the bills are partially influenced by upcoming elections.
“The 2020 election is really a critical year in North Carolina because of the redistricting that’s coming up in 2021, so a lot of the bills that are being run on both sides are framed in order to send certain messages to the voters about their position on issues," she said.
North Carolina Right to Life also said in its statement that HB 54 is necessary.
“It is unknown how many (D&E abortions in North Carolina in 2017) were performed on living unborn children, but we can assume a large number of them were. Even if only one child died by dismemberment, this law would still be necessary,” the group said.
Nash said the bills’ attitude towards women’s decision making is problematic.
“The bills, at the very fundamental level, question a woman’s decision making around abortion and suggest that this is a temporary decision, that a woman will change her mind," she said. "When in fact, the process which you go through to provide informed consent for any medical treatment is thorough and provides relevant information, so that when you make the decision you’re ready to engage in that treatment."
The sponsors of the bills did not respond to requests for comment.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.