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Three Republican state legislators introduce bill to ban abortion at conception

DTH Photo Illustration. A near-total abortion ban bill, titled Human Life Protection Act of 2023, has been filed within the General Assembly of North Carolina as of Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

North Carolina House Bill 533, which would ban abortions in North Carolina at conception unless to preserve the life of the mother, was filed on March 29.

The "Human Life Protection Act of 2023" does not allow exceptions for abortions to occur in cases of rape or incest.

The bill's primary sponsors, N.C. Reps. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico), Ben Moss (R-Moore, Richmond) and Edward Goodwin (R-Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Perquimans, Tyrrell, Washington), did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel's request for comment by the time of publication.

H.B. 533 defines abortion as using an instrument or medicine to remove a pregnancy. It also specifies that birth control devices or oral contraceptives are not considered abortion.

N.C. Rep. Renée Price (D-Caswell, Orange) said she is opposed to the bill and is concerned about the lives of mothers if it were to pass into law.

H.B. 533 would fine a person performing, inducing or attempting an abortion a minimum of $100,000 and a potential sentence of life imprisonment. Price called these conditions "unnecessary."

"We need to be putting more emphasis on people that are alive, making sure people get health care," Price said. 

Although she respects others' beliefs, Price said, she thinks abortion is a right all women should have.

After passing its first reading in the N.C. House, H.B. 533 was referred to the rules committee on March 30. 

Under H.B. 533, performing a successful abortion would result in a Class B1 felony, a charge given for first-degree rape and second-degree murder in North Carolina. Attempting an abortion would result in a Class B2 felony, a charge given for second-degree murder in the state.

"It would criminalize doctors and throw them in prison potentially for life for providing essential health care," Jillian Riley, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in North Carolina, said.

If H.B. 533 is passed, a physician or other health care professional who performs or attempts an abortion in North Carolina would lose their license or permit.

"We encourage North Carolinians to contact their state representatives and urge them to reject any bill that bans abortion in our state," Riley said. "Abortion is healthcare, and politicians should never interfere with private medical decisions."

Some North Carolinians agree with the bill's strict views on abortion. Rory French, a junior at UNC-Charlotte, said he is anti-abortion. 

"Abortion is murder and there's nothing valuable enough to warrant to take away a life," French said.

Riley said this filed bill exposes the agenda of the anti-abortion movement. She said it is dangerous and cruel.

Along with abortions, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic provides STI testing, birth control, breast cancer screenings, gender-affirming care for transgender people and other services, Riley said. 

"This bill can have devastating effects on anyone in the state of North Carolina or anyone coming into the state that needs to receive abortion care," Riley said.

It does not include the word "fetus" but rather the phrase "unborn child." French said he thinks the wording of the bill helps reflect the idea that an unborn child is alive.

"There's no real difference between killing an unborn child and killing a person," he said.

The bill states there would be exceptions for saving a mother's life, including an ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life-threatening condition where a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus.

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It is unlikely the bill will become law, as many House Republicans are publicly discussing either prohibiting abortions after the first trimester (12-13 weeks of pregnancy) with exceptions for rape and incest or after an ultrasound detects fetal cardiac activity (around six weeks of pregnancy). 

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