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Originally published: 2013-07-04 16:53:27
Last modified: 2013-07-09 13:21:23

N.C. Senate passes abortion restrictions

by Anna Oakes

The N.C. Senate on Wednesday approved measures to restrict abortions in the state via House Bill 695 -- a bill that prior to Wednesday contained measures related only to the application of foreign laws.

The Senate on Tuesday received a new edition of House Bill 695 from the Senate Judiciary I Committee, with the short title changing from "Foreign Laws/Protect Constitutional Rights" to "Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act." Added to the foreign law provisions was new language related to abortion laws.

The bill would require abortion clinics to meet license standards similar to those required for ambulatory surgical centers; according to media reports, only one clinic in the state currently meets that standard.

It also includes provisions already approved by the House in other bills, including a ban on sex-selective abortions and a provision that bars health plans under the new federal health care exchange from covering abortion services.

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, the restrictions emerged in a Senate committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, and a few hours later, the Republican-dominated Senate voted along party lines to waive the rules to allow a floor vote. The bill passed on second reading Tuesday and on third reading Wednesday, largely along party lines.

The bill will now return to the House for concurrence.

The N.C. Senate Republican Caucus on Thursday tweeted, "We have an obligation to protect the health of NC women."

Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone is on the Judiciary I Committee and voted in favor of House Bill 695. He was not immediately available for comment as of presstime Wednesday, but the Watauga Democrat will publish any responses in a future article.

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, issued a statement on Wednesday opposed to the bill.

"Restricting the health care rights of women is not only bad public policy, but it will ignite even more constitutional challenges in court," he said.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory also chided the Senate on Wednesday, but his statement was related to the vote process.

"When the Democrats were in power, this is the way they did business," McCrory said. "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."

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan also chimed in on Wednesday, stating, "The leadership in the North Carolina General Assembly chose to force this sweeping anti-women's health bill through with no public notice or transparency because they knew it wouldn't stand up to public scrutiny."