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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Treat H.B. 533 and all anti-abortion legislation as the serious threats they are

DTH Photo Illustration. House Bill 533, which is also known as the The Human Life Protection Act of 2023, was filed last month in the state of North Carolina.

Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, North Carolina has seen a 37 percent increase in abortions between April and August 2022, the largest increase of any state where abortion remains legal. This increase is likely due to people traveling from other Southern and Midwestern states where abortions have been banned or heavily restricted, such as Texas, Tennessee and Alabama. 

North Carolina's status as a safe haven for those seeking abortions may be on the line with the filing of H.B. 533, the "Human Life and Protection Act of 2023," on March 29 by Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico). 

Kidwell was joined by Rep. Ben Moss (R-Moore, Richmond) and Rep. Ed Goodwin (R-Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Perquimans, Tyrrell, Washington) in presenting this egregious overreach in the form of legislation. The bill has passed its first reading and is off to the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the state House.

The proposal of such a bill is a slap in the face to those that have the ability to get pregnant and the 55 percent of North Carolinians that favor some form of abortion access. 

What is the Human Life and Protection Act?

In short, the bill prohibits abortion after conception, "except when necessary to preserve the life of the mother." In fact, the only exception granted is to avoid serious complications or the death of the pregnant person.

Currently, the bill makes no mention of exceptions in the case of rape or incest, meaning individuals seeking abortions for these reasons would face the same hardship. Punishment ranges from hefty fines of no less than $100,000 to potential life in prison. This bill would make receiving an abortion a felony.

Additionally, like other instances of anti-abortion legislation, the bill makes no attempt at using gender-inclusive language, assuming only those that identify as “female” are able to get pregnant. The bill further refers to a fetus at any stage as an unborn child and recognizes pregnancy as the entire embryonic and fetal stages of development, “from fertilization until birth."

What does this mean for North Carolinians, and what are the odds it will pass?

If the bill is passed, it will come into effect on July 1. The odds of this bill passing seem low due to the extreme nature of not providing legal forgiveness for victims of rape or cases of incest. Yet, political analyst Mitch Kokai of the conservative-leaning John Locke Foundation told ABC 11 that the bill may be “strategic” —in that introducing a more extreme bill may make future legislation seem less intense, or even like a compromise. 

Additionally, with Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-Mecklenburg) leaving the Democratic Party, this now gives both of North Carolina's legislative chambers veto-proof GOP majorities, making conservative policies like this one more likely to pass.

So, what can we do?

When considering whether or not to take action against this bill, it is important to remember that legislation that eliminates reproductive freedom is felt disproportionately by low-income communities, LGBTQ+ people and people of color who may not have the means to travel to access a legal abortion. 

We must remain vigilant in the face of proposed anti-abortion legislation, and take these threats to reproductive justice seriously, no matter their likelihood to pass.

The N.C. General Assembly's website makes it simple to follow the status of a bill. You can also call your legislators and demand that they vote "No" on H.B. 533 in order to preserve North Carolinian's reproductive rights and freedom of choice.


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