UPDATE, June 27, 2:15 p.pm EST: SB 132 has now passed both chambers of the state legislature and is heading to the governor for signature.
A contentious bill that would require health teachers to inform seventh-grade students that abortion—along with smoking, drinking, drug use, and lack of prenatal care—can affect carrying a pregnancy to full term, passed a first reading in the North Carolina house Wednesday. Although the abortion claim has no basis in medical fact, 73 state senators voted in favor of it.
The bill is an amended version of SB 132, which in its original form required teachers of seventh-grade health classes to tell students that abortion causes preterm birth; the new version lists abortion as a potential cause of preterm birth along with risk factors like drug and alcohol use. As Paige Johnson, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, told Rewire in early May when the bill was first introduced, there is “not a single national medical organization [that] recognizes a causal link between abortion and preterm birth.”
“This is nothing but a feel-good bill. It talks but doesn’t actually do anything,” said state Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake), according to WRAL.com. “It tries to scare women, both young and old, in the decisions they make about their bodies.”
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Rep. Martin is one of 44 state representatives who opposed the bill in what at some points was an emotional debate over privacy, health, the age appropriateness of the bill. and “bad personal choices,” according to some who witnessed it. However, the transcript of the proceedings will not be available; although one lawmaker who opposed the bill requested the debate be transcribed, he was thwarted by another colleague who supported the bill.
The bill is expected to receive a final vote in the house this week before going back to the senate for a final vote. If it is approved in both chambers, it would head to the the desk of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who promised when he ran for governor in 2012 that he would not sign any abortion restrictions into law.
It’s a promise that Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, told the News Observer she intends to hold him to. “I want to be very clear here,” she said. “We will consider anything less than a veto of legislation aimed at limiting access to abortion care as a breach of that promise.”