News Abortion

North Carolina House Committee Meets on ‘Sharia Law’ Abortion Bill as Protest Against Bill Grows

Robin Marty

While the committee debated the legislation, pro-choice activists met outside the capitol to protest government interference in personal decisions, building on the previous day's Moral Monday protest, at which dozens of protesters were arrested.

The North Carolina house Health and Human Services Committee met Tuesday to discuss HB 695, a bill ostensibly designed to combat Sharia law in the state that was amended during a surprise hearing last week to add numerous abortion restrictions. While the committee argued about whether the house should concur with the senate version of the legislation, pro-choice activists met outside the capitol to protest government interference in personal decisions, building on the previous day’s Moral Monday protest, at which dozens of protesters were arrested.

HB 695 would severely restrict access to safe abortion care in the state by potentially closing all but one state abortion clinic, requiring admitting privileges for doctors who perform abortions, requiring physicians to only provide medication abortions in the presence of a patient, restricting insurance coverage for abortion services, and banning sex-selective abortions, which are not known to actually occur in the state.

Testimony against the legislation came not only from medical professionals and local reproductive rights groups, but also from a state agency. Aldona Wos, the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, specifically urged lawmakers to slow down and clarify the bill before passing a final version. (HB 695 passed the house earlier this session, prior to the anti-choice amendments being added, and the house only needs to concur with the senate version of the bill before it can be sent to the governor for signature.)

A Department of Health and Human Services representative testified first on Tuesday, noting that the department needs clarification about enforcing the new standards. “We are not able to directly regulate physicians,” he testified, also expressing the department’s “technical” concerns for overseeing clinic and doctor regulations.

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While politicians and advocates inside the capitol debated HB 695, outside the movement against the bill continued to grow. Gathered on Halifax Mall, pro-choice state politicians spoke out against the restrictions. They were joined by Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “North Carolina is not alone. In too many states, politicians are carrying the water for a radical minority who think they know how to live our lives better than we do,” said Hogue. “And these folks believe the ends justify the means. They don’t care if women get hurt, if children are lied to, and they certainly don’t care if politicians skirt due process, the laws of our land, to get their way.”

Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, also spoke at the rally. “House Bill 695 is out of touch with the more than three-quarters of North Carolinians who believe lawmakers have no place in a woman’s personal, private reproductive health care decisions,” she said. “The vast majority of North Carolinians want the legislature to focus on jobs, the economy, education, and access to health care, not stripping away women’s reproductive choices, decimating civil rights, and attacking the poor.”

Tuesday’s rally came less than 24 hours after a Moral Monday protest that focused largely on the bill. The Monday event drew roughly 2,000 participants, which Reuters called one of the biggest crowds since the NAACP began organizing the events this spring. Sixty-four protesters were arrested Monday, including Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina President and CEO Janet Colm, WRAL.com reports.

Colm wrote in a piece published on the Huffington Post:

It’s not just that our legislature is turning its back on the history and people of our state. It’s not just that they are playing with women’s lives, although that’s good enough reason to take a stand. I want these politicians to see that with every attack, they are creating a fierce and ever stronger opposition. We’re making it impossible for politicians to ignore us, no matter how hard they try.

Because of Tuesday’s hearing, the bill was not brought up for a vote on concurrence. The house will next have the opportunity to vote on the bill on Wednesday.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who publicly expressed concern over the way the anti-choice bill was forced through the senate without following the traditional legislative process, vowed during his gubernatorial campaign that he would not sign any abortion restrictions into law. However, he has not specifically committed to vetoing HB 695, telling reporters at a press conference that the issue is “complex.” “I think parts of the bill, personally, clearly deal with safety and help protect these women,” he said. “But I also see there are parts of the bill that could clearly cross that line where they are adding further restrictions to access, and I think that’s where we need further discussion and further debate.”

Commentary Abortion

Standing Under Sprinklers, Missouri Activists Turn Tables on Anti-Choice Community

Pamela Merritt

Missouri legislators protect and fund crisis pregnancy centers, while ignoring how their constituents are affected by violence and health-care disparities. A new campaign is taking to the streets to refocus their attention.

When I found out in 2015 that anti-choice politicians in Missouri had formed the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life, I was outraged that they planned to use valuable time and money to bully Planned Parenthood with yet another baseless investigation.

My second thought was that I wished someone would form a committee to investigate the real issues that threaten the lives of Missourians every day.

Erin Matson and I co-founded Reproaction because we believe in the power of direct action; that the current state of abortion access is a manmade humanitarian crisis; and that people must have the right to decide whether to parent and to live in communities free of violence and oppression.

Those core values inspired us to launch the Show-Me Accountability Campaign in Missouri on June 29. Through the campaign we are leading direct actions to hold members of the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life accountable, and demanding Missouri politicians work on the real challenges our communities and neighbors face, such as gun violence and Black infant mortality.

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Missourians deserve access to health care and safe communities, but that’s not the focus of anti-choice legislators. Instead, our lawmakers choose to persecute abortion providers and dish out tax credits to sham crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

Missourians have had enough. That’s what brought local progressive activists together, led by Reproaction Missouri organizer Zoe Krause, to launch Show-Me Accountability. We gathered on the sidewalk in front of Thrive, one of at least 65 CPCs anti-choice lawmakers champion despite the fact that the centers have a history of lying to patients seeking reproductive health care. Missouri lawmakers have even pushed legislation to guarantee CPCs aren’t subject to regulation or oversight. We chose Thrive as the location of our launch to illustrate the contrast between what Missouri politicians fund, prioritize, and protect, versus what Missourians actually need them to focus on.

Someone turned the sprinklers on at Thrive just as activists started showing up, providing a nonstop shower that drenched people walking or standing on much of the sidewalk in front of the building. It was an old-school disruption move that made it clear they knew we were coming and weren’t happy about it. We shifted down the sidewalk and started to get in formation.

Several interns from Thrive came outside and tried to physically disrupt our work by repeatedly moving between activists and attempting to surround us. But when we engaged them in conversation, they didn’t appear to know much about the services Thrive provides or that CPCs get tax credits in Missouri. As our speakers began their remarks, Thrive counselors in bright orange vests held signs and guarded the walkway up to the building. I’m familiar with the vests and signs because they are usually seen stationed in front of Missouri’s only abortion provider a few blocks away.

The speakers were amazing, their topics a damning indictment of the issues that wither on the vine in Jefferson City while politicians compete for the attention of anti-abortion lobbyists. Kirstin Palovick, organizer for the grassroots LGBT equality organization PROMO, explained why it hurts our state that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Missouri can be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and denied access to public accommodations and services. Cicely Paine, fellowship manager at CoreAlign and board chair for Community Birth and Wellness, shared her experience as a sex educator in Missouri, where access to comprehensive sex education is not a right enjoyed by all. Mustafa Abdullah, lead organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, passionately detailed the real-world consequences of racial disparities in policing and why police violence is a reproductive justice issue.

I was the final speaker and used my time to talk about why the Black infant mortality rate is a public health crisis worthy of attention and urgency. We ended with chants and a few dances through the shower provided by Thrive’s sprinkler system.

The timing for our campaign launch couldn’t have been better. Shortly after the action at Thrive, the chair of the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life announced that there would be a press conference in Jefferson City to discuss a report detailing the results of their “work.” So, Zoe and I took a road trip to the Missouri capitol to witness firsthand what the committee had to say and ask some questions.

At around 1 p.m., several anti-choice members of the committee, including chair Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), gathered in the fourth floor mezzanine in the capitol. Neither Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) nor Sen. Maria Chappelle Nadal (D-St. Louis), the only pro-choice members of the committee, were in attendance. Neither contributed to the report.

As expected, the yearlong investigation found no evidence that tissue has been illegally sold. Sen. Schaefer acknowledged that the report was not an official report of the committee. Instead, the senators used the press conference to fuss about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision and voice their frustration over not having uncovered much of anything.

“What is clear is there are many things that are unclear,” Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) said during the press conference.

On that one point, I agree.

It remains unclear how much this investigation cost Missourians. We deserve a proper accounting for just how much we invested in this farce. But when Reproaction’s Zoe Krause asked that question during the press conference, the senators refused to answer.

It remains unclear why a committee formed under the title “Sanctity of Life” failed to investigate why Missourians are at risk of being killed by gun-wielding toddlers, why gun deaths surpass deaths resulting from car accidents, or why Black women are three times more likely to have an infant die before the child’s first birthday.

What is clear is that the committee’s press conference was partisan because the committee formed as a platform for anti-choice propaganda. It is clear that the anti-abortion videos used as the excuse for forming the committee have been thoroughly debunked.

Sadly, it is more than clear that some members of the committee think they can get away with wasting the people’s time trying to score political points with anti-choice groups.

We drove away from the capitol more committed than ever to the Show-Me Accountability Campaign. Missourians deserve legislators who will prioritize real-world issues, and we will demand accountability from those who fail to do so. Media coverage of our launch has already sparked long-overdue discussions about the damaging consequences of our state legislature’s misplaced priorities.

That’s the kind of fertile soil accountability can grow in, and we intend to see it grow in Missouri. We are in this for dignity, justice, and liberation. And we’re just getting started.

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.”

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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.”