Soucek added abortion language to H695
by Anna Oakes
State Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone said he put forward the abortion law changes that were swiftly enacted by the N.C. Senate last week as part of House Bill 695.
Soucek, a Republican, serves on the Senate Judiciary I Committee, which on July 2 approved a revised version of H695 that added new abortion language to the bill, which previously contained measures related only to the application of foreign laws.
"I submitted the amendment that put this language in the bill," Soucek said Tuesday. "I really think it's very common sense policy in law regarding the health and safety of our clinics in North Carolina."
Under the bill, which changed from the "Foreign Laws/Protect Constitutional Rights" to the "Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act," abortion clinics would be required 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, and critics say the bill aims to reduce access to abortion providers.
The bill also includes provisions already approved by the N.C. 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 Republican-led Senate voted to waive the rules to allow a floor vote on the bill only hours after the new language was added to the bill July 2. H695 passed on second reading July 2 and on third reading July 3, largely along party lines. The bill is slated to return to the House for concurrence.
Many people -- including Republican Gov. Pat McCrory -- cried foul, accusing the Senate of rushing the measures to a vote without sufficient public notice. Others, like Democratic Atty. Gen. Roy Cooper, said the measures violate women's rights and could lead to court challenges.
But Soucek said he felt the public has had adequate time to provide input on abortion issues.
"These aren't issues that are new. These are things that have been debated for decades in the state," Soucek said. "I think every legislator knew how they were going to vote before the bill was even presented."
N.C. House Rep. Jonathan Jordan of Jefferson did not respond to an email and phone message Monday and Tuesday seeking his opinion on the bill.
On July 5, the state ordered a Durham abortion clinic to shut down after citing it with numerous health and safety violations, according to media reports. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger issued a statement Monday in response.
"This is exactly the type of substandard 'medical' care threatening women's health that we intended to fight with the legislation we passed last week," Berger said. "We respect that the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade makes it the law of the land. But it defies logic how any politician -- from either party -- could oppose higher safety and sanitation standards for women's clinics."
Soucek said he thought the 2013 legislative session could last another two to four weeks.
"The big thing we continue to work on is the tax reform and how that flows into the budget," he said. "Despite these other issues that come up and grab the headlines, those are what we spend the most time on."