Despite making a campaign promise last October that he would not sign any further abortion restrictions into law, this afternoon Gov. Pat McCrory said he will make an exception.
“If the General Assembly sends me the Senate-approved bill (HB 695), I will veto it. If I get the House-passed bill (SB 353), I’ll sign it,” McCrory said in a statement released by his office Friday afternoon. “The recent House version allows the medical professionals at the Department of Health and Human Services to write the rules which will ensure women’s safety. I want to thank those who worked on an improved bill which will better protect women while not further limiting access.”
Last week, Xpress reported that the abortion provisions added to HB 695, a law originally about Islamic law, would effectively close every abortion clinic in the state except for Asheville’s FemCare, Inc. This is because the bill requires abortion clinics across the state to meet a new set of standards similar to those for outpatient surgery clinics, such as providing an onsite recovery phase for patients at the clinics as well as requiring a transfer agreement between a clinic and a hospital. It also requires that a physician be present in the room when a woman induces a chemical abortion (by pill).
The day after the bill passed the Senate with a vote of 29-12 during an evening session on July 2, McCrory released a statement that condemned the bill’s passage on procedural grounds. “When the Democrats were in power, this is the way they did business. It was not right then and it is not right now. Regardless of what party is in charge or what important issue is being discussed, the process must be appropriate and thorough,” he said in the statement. On July 10, the governor threatened to veto the legislation unless “significant changes and clarifications are made.”
The House responded a few hours later to the veto threat, adding similar abortion provisions to SB 353, a bill related to motorcycle safety. Yesterday, that bill passed in the House with a vote of 74 to 41.
Sen. Martin Nesbitt, who represents Buncombe County, released a statement this afternoon criticizing McCrory’s decision to sign SB 353. “Women across North Carolina are learning the hard way that Pat McCrory would have said just about anything to become governor. If you’re going to make a promise in a campaign, you’d better keep it – because nobody’s going to forget,” Nesbitt said. “Instead, we’ve seen the governor play backroom political games so he could look tough while ultimately signing sweeping restrictions that will hurt thousands of women. I think we’ve learned that Pat McCrory will say anything to make folks like him, but the people of North Carolina don’t need empty promises. We need someone who will stand up and lead.”
Here are the differences between HB 695 and SB 353:
• Requires a physician be physically present in the same room when administering an abortion-inducing drug, including additional doses.
• Requires abortion clinics to meet standards similar to those of ambulatory surgical centers such as providing an onsite recovery phase for patients at the clinics as well as requiring a transfer agreement between the clinics and hospitals.
• Requires a physician to be present in the room for the first dose of an abortion-inducing drug. However, it does not require that a physician be present beyond the initial dose.
• Authorizes state regulators to apply “applicable” standards used in ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics. Rules will address on-site recovery, medical complications and privacy “while not unduly restricting access.” The state Department of Health and Human Services can write temporary rules without legislative approval.
• Requires the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to study what resources the department needs in order to enforce the bill’s regulations.
Caitlin Byrd can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.