News Abortion

Would a North Carolina Bill Ban Minors From Buying Pregnancy Tests? (UPDATED)

Robin Marty

The North Carolina legislature would rather see teens face unplanned pregnancies, untreated STIs, and chemical dependency issues than allow them to receive any form of health care without a parent's approval.

Update, May 8, 3:23 pm Eastern: After debate in the house Wednesday afternoon, HB 693 was referred back to committee for reworking. Rewire will keep you updated on the bill’s movement.

Between 2003 and 2011, the teen pregnancy rate in North Carolina fell 28 percent, outpacing the rest of the country when it comes to teen pregnancy prevention. But that trend may quickly reverse if a new bill, HB 693, passes, requiring previously unseen levels of parental consent for minors accessing health care related to pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted infection (STI) treatment, mental health, and chemical dependency.

The decade-long decline in unplanned teen pregnancy rates in the state brought North Carolina into the national spotlight as a state that’s leading the way on curbing teen pregnancies. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy directly attributed the decline to an increased use of contraception, with Chief Program Officer Bill Albert telling the News Observer in January, “Something is working, because we’ve seen such dramatic declines.”

Whatever is “working,” it isn’t making some legislators in North Carolina happy. HB 693 adds the following subsection to the state’s existing parental notification law, which currently exempts the diagnosis of STIs and pregnancy and the treatment of STIs, chemical dependency issues, and emotional health issues, but not abortion.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Except as prohibited by federal law, unless a parent or legal guardian or legal custodian of an unemancipated minor is present with the unemancipated minor and gives consent, no health care provider duly licensed in the State of North Carolina, or agent thereof, shall provide health care services for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of (i) sexually transmitted diseases, including Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, (ii) abuse of controlled substances or alcohol, (iii) mental illness, or (iv) pregnancy unless the health care provider or agent thereof, or another health care provider or agent thereof, first obtains the written consent of the minor and the notarized written consent of any one of the following:(1)        A parent with custody of the minor.

(2)        The legal guardian or legal custodian of the minor.

(3)        A parent with whom the minor is living.

(4)        A grandparent with whom the minor has been living for at least six months immediately preceding the date of the minor’s written consent.

Under the expanded legislation a minor would not be able to have an abortion without parental permission, but also would not be able to confirm a pregnancy or receive prenatal care to assist with a healthy pregnancy. The language puts minors at risk by forcing them to avoid treatments in order to keep their own conditions private from potentially dangerous parental involvement, and it endangers fetal health by adding roadblocks to a confirmation of a pregnancy and making a relationship with a parent or guardian a prerequisite for receiving proper care.

The original version of the bill from March only included physicians, but the bill was revised on May 7 to include any “health care provider duly licensed in the State of North Carolina, or agent thereof.” This shows the legislature’s eagerness to cut off all health-care to teens, regardless of the harm it will cause them, in favor of legislating the parent-child relationship. The fact that the house moved straight from committee to a full floor vote in just one day makes it clear that legislators are concerned that open debate or a period for public feedback would show how unpopular the idea is with state voters.

They’re right to be concerned. According to polling conducted by Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) in January, 83 percent of respondents called the North Carolina Minor’s Right to Consent law “important,” and 77 percent agreed that “I want my teen to abstain from sex, but I also think he or she needs information on birth control.”

“They are trying to fast-track this bill because they know that parents and medical providers are not going to support such overreaching legislation,” Paige Johnson, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, told Rewire. Tuesday’s committee hearing occurred just after the any-licensed-health-care-provider change was made in the bill, emphasizing a legislature eager to push through the most extreme bill possible as quickly as it can before anyone can raise any objections.

A rush job like this one is likely to leave many citizens and providers confused about what is or isn’t allowed in the state, especially around teen reproductive health. Committee testimony confirmed that under the new restrictions, a teen who brought a notarized consent form to a doctor to obtain birth control pills would probably then be required to take the same or another notarized consent to the pharmacy to get the medication itself, despite the doctor already approving the prescription.

Even more confusing would be the rules surrounding emergency contraception or teen pregnancy tests. A nurse practitioner would be unable to offer a pregnancy test to a 16-year-old, or provide her with emergency contraception if she walked into a clinic, unless her guardian accompanied her or she brought in notarized consent. But would that extend to purchasing an over-the-counter pregnancy test at a grocery store, or buying Plan B at the pharmacy? A phone call and email in to state Rep. Tom Murry (R-Wake), pharmacist and leader for numerous health-care bills in the assembly, asking for clarity around these issues wasn’t returned prior to publication.

A bill like this would not have been seen in the state just a few years ago, according to Johnson. “North Carolina has always been a leader in public health. We have worked to expand access to health care. We were a leader in this until 2011 when the Republicans took over.” Instead, the state is continuing to offer confusing, misleading, or dangerous bills to restrict rights at the expense of public health. And now they’re rushing them through as quickly as possible in the hopes that the public won’t notice.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Immigrant Bill Advances in North Carolina

Tina Vasquez

The bill may become law by the end of the legislative session Saturday, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Acting Executive Director Sarah Preston told Rewire.

North Carolina’s HB 100, a bill that targets undocumented communities and aims to penalize cities not complying with local immigration laws, was sent to the house rules committee this week after passing the senate.

The bill could become law by the end of the legislative session Saturday, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Acting Executive Director Sarah Preston told Rewire.

HB 100 expands on HB 318, the Protect North Carolina Workers Act, signed into law last year, which requires employers doing business with a “public entity” to use the federal E-Verify system to authenticate the citizenship status of job applicants, and bars government agencies and local law enforcement from verifying a person’s identity or residence using consular or embassy documents.

HB 100 will prohibit an exception in HB 318 that allows law enforcement to accept identification provided through local programs such as the FaithAction ID Initiative, which provides identification for any resident in the community “who may not have access to government issued forms of ID.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

As ThinkProgress reported, these local ID programs were created “in partnership with law enforcement officials precisely because police wanted to make cities safer … FaithAction International House realized that undocumented immigrants were afraid to call the police when crimes occurred, fearing officers would arrest them instead because they lacked identification.”

Another bill introduced in May, SB 868, aims to prohibit law enforcement officials from being able to accept these IDs and under HB 100, these programs, popular in larger cities like Greensboro, would be illegal.

“Removing the ability to use these community IDs makes undocumented immigrants more likely to be targets of crime, because it makes them fearful to come forward and interact with law enforcement,” said Preston. “People who want to take advantage of the community know this community has very little recourse.”

What’s “incredibly troubling,” Preston said, is the reporting piece of the bill. The law allows anonymous tipsters to call the attorney general’s office and make complaints against their city, town, or local law enforcement alleging it is not following local immigration laws. As CityLab reported, a second reporting measure allows any person to “file a lawsuit asking a court to decide whether a city or county is non-compliant with state law.”

If the attorney general confirms a report that a city is not complying with the state’s anti-immigrant policies, whether these violations are intentional or inadvertent, the city’s transportation and education funding will be withdrawn for the year.

“These complaints would be anonymous and confidential and could take shape in many different ways, like someone at the county clerk’s office helping an undocumented person access records or seeing an undocumented person in court that a North Carolina resident doesn’t think is being treated as badly as they should be,” Preston said.

The attorney general would investigate “no matter how frivolous or incomplete it may be,” Preston told Rewire.

HB 100 comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s split ruling on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), which would have provided an estimated 3.6 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident children with a renewable work permit and exemption from deportation for two years. At a time when advocates are calling on cities to provide more local protections for undocumented immigrants in light of the ruling, Preston said this measure represents the “unnecessary targeting” of a community that has already been under attackboth nationally and in North Carolina—for years.

A recent series of immigration raids hit North Carolina’s undocumented communities, which comprise 7.6 percent of the population, hard. The state doesn’t have any sanctuary cities, which are regions that do not work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the detainment and deportation of undocumented community members.

HB 100 would actually make sanctuary cities illegal, explained Preston. And the inability by undocumented community members to access any form of identification would erode any relationship local law enforcement has been able to build with this community.

“I can’t answer why the state is going after such a vulnerable population,” Preston said. “I think it’s wrong and misguided, but I don’t have an answer. I wish I knew.”

Commentary Human Rights

North Carolina’s Policies Don’t Keep Anyone Safe

Emma Akpan

Gov. McCrory’s claims to want to protect North Carolinians are not holding water if he and state Republicans continue to ignore policies that will keep all citizens safe and healthy and, instead, show support for legislation that would make it easier for people to access guns.

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

We all watched the news of the Pulse nightclub massacre in horror.

In my state, on June 13, one day after the shooting, the North Carolina General Assembly moved forward on reading an amendment that would lift restrictions on our right to carry a concealed weapon. Currently, people have to take classroom training and pass a background check. The new measure would allow concealed weapons in public without many requirements. While it’s unclear when state legislators will take action on this bill, it’s troubling to know that some state leaders are not bolstering comprehensive gun control in light of the massacre.

These same legislators claim that they are supporting and passing policies that will keep citizens safe. But at the same time that hate has fueled deadly shootings in this country, state Republicans have introduced anti-trans legislation that has coincided with a wave of violence against trans people.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Earlier this spring, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a much talked about bill that discriminates against transgender people in the state, a group of citizens already at risk for violence and harassment not only in bathrooms, but in most public places.

While there is no clear link connecting the shooting to these discriminatory bathroom policies, we know that hateful beliefs and violent actions preluded the brutal killings in Orlando, and that intolerance can fuel laws like North Carolina’s HB 2.

Just this week, state lawmakers were considering revising the law, but those changes would effectively privilege trans people who are able to, or wish to, have gender reassignment surgery over other transgender or gender-nonconforming people. Rightly so, advocacy groups were quick to criticize the proposals, which would do nothing to allow individuals to use the bathroom of their gender identity.

Gov. McCrory and state leaders talk about protecting women, but they should be concerned with protecting the safety of all residents, especially the most vulnerable: transgender residents. HB 2 puts transgender individuals more at risk of violence in public spaces. We cannot continue to have these safety and privacy arguments at the expense of transgender North Carolinians.

This cannot be overstated: There have been no incidents of transgender individuals attacking people in public bathrooms. However, there has been an uptick of attacks in public bathrooms in response to the fear HB 2 has incited. The disgraceful conversation about “scary” trans women in women’s bathrooms has people mistaking cis women for trans women and harassing them in bathrooms. A woman entering a Walmart bathroom sporting a short hairstyle was told by a stranger, “you’re disgusting!” and, “you don’t belong here!” Trans women experience this quite frequently, which is why Charlotte passed the ordinance to allow North Carolinians to use the bathroom of their gender identity, to keep trans women safe in public spaces. But then HB 2 gave license to individual citizens to police who enters public bathrooms, adding to the violence marginalized groups already experience—not reducing it.

As actress and activist Candis Cayne explained on CNN, “[HB 2] will stop people from being comfortable in this society. It will stop people from wanting to leave their house, because going to the bathroom is such a natural function. You leave your house every day. You want to go shopping. You want to go to the post office, but if you have to go to the bathroom along the way, you’re not allowed to. It’s a bill that’s really kind of making people in my community have to stay home, have to not be a part of our society.”

After Gov. McCrory signed and was heavily criticized for HB 2, he claimed that the state government was looking out for women’s privacy.

His claims have been debunked over and over again, and based on past legislation, we can see that state Republicans have not prioritized the needs of the state’s most marginalized populations over their own need to breed intolerance and government interference in the health and well-being of those populations.

I’m sure many of Rewire’s readers remember HB 465, signed into law last summer. The law stipulates that women must wait 72 hours to access an abortion. The medically unnecessary legislation directly contradicts McCrory’s statements in support of the anti-trans law HB 2 about the need to protect women’s privacy and safety, considering doctors are now required to send private ultrasounds of women who have had abortions to a governmental agency. North Carolina pro-choice advocates have been pushing that this stipulation is unnecessary and downright creepy. It also fuels stigma around a basic health-care service. That law went into effect January 1, but if McCrory and other legislative leaders truly believed in women’s privacy, they would look again at HB 465.

While we’re on the subject of privacy and safety, state Republicans leaders have forgotten that a great way to keep women safe is to ensure their economic sustainability. Many have noted that HB 2 not only affects those who can or cannot enter a public restroom, it takes away municipalities’ power to raise the minimum wage. Who will be most affected by this stalemate? Women, of course, who make up two-thirds of the people who work minimum-wage jobs.

A couple of years ago, the North Carolina state budget also reduced after-school care for children. Does this policy protect women and families? No. Not only that, it further stigmatizes low-income mothers, who are hard-hit by such budget cuts. For North Carolina women, the fear is not in bathrooms, but in the low-wage positions we are placed into.

Gov. McCrory’s claims to protect North Carolinians are not holding water if he and state Republicans continue to ignore policies that will keep all citizens safe and healthy and, instead, show support for legislation that would make it easier for people to access guns. We haven’t expanded Medicaid, we have continued restrictions on reproductive health care, and so many North Carolina women don’t make a living wage.

Trans-inclusive policies, like the Charlotte ordinance that intended to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their gender identity, are not a threat to the safety of North Carolinians, but lifting gun requirements may threaten our safety. It’s time for state Republicans to give North Carolinians what we are demanding: an inclusive, safe, and healthy state that we all want to live in.