News Abortion

North Carolina ‘Motorcycle’ Abortion Bill Passes House, Will Protect Women From ‘Vaginal Organisms,’ Says Supporter

Robin Marty

During the debate on the motorcycle safety act Thursday, the subject of motorcycles only entered the debate once. "I own a motorcycle," said state Rep. Beverly Earle. "I want to let my motorcycle buddies know when I vote against this, it has nothing to do with them."

UPDATE, July 12, 2:10 p.m.: Gov. McCrory has confirmed to a local television station that he would not veto SB 353, the house version of the abortion restrictions.

The North Carolina house voted 74-41 Thursday to pass SB 353, a bill originally written as a piece of motorcycle safety legislation that was amended Wednesday, to the surprise of some state lawmakers, to include numerous abortion restrictions. Supporters of the bill spoke Thursday of how the legislation could protect women from “vaginal organisms” at unclean facilities, among other things, while there was virtually no mention of motorcycles during the debate.

The amendments, a version of which were previously included in a bill designed to ban Sharia law in the state before the governor threatened a veto, include regulations that could restrict access to safe abortion, limit medication abortions, ban sex-selective abortions, and prevent pregnant people from using insurance to pay for abortion care.

Thursday’s three-hour house debate was overall more subdued than recent debates in states like Ohio and Texas; Republican Speaker Thom Tillis said that any noise or distraction would result in the gallery being emptied.

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Some Democratic lawmakers noted during the debate that the majority of the state’s legislative session has revolved around deregulation, and this is the first bill that proposes an increase in government oversight. “The North Carolina government wants to deregulate everything except women’s bodies,” said Rep. Sam Joe Queen (D-Haywood), who complained that although he was on the state judiciary committee, which was considering the motorcycle safety bill on Wednesday, he received no warning prior to the hearing that abortion amendments had been added to it.

Although the seemingly sneaky method of getting the bill to the chamber was brought up many times by politicians opposing SB 353—Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Fayetteville) called it a “rewrite by moonlight” in his testimony—it was the effect that potential clinic closures could have on the poor that received the most attention. A number of attempts to draw a connection between the impact of SB 353 and lawmakers’ previous refusal to expand Medicaid, maintain family planning funds, or support teaching age-appropriate comprehensive sex education in schools were ruled off-topic by Tillis.

Citing a laundry list of bacteria that could potentially harm women, from staph to herpes, state Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret) defended the clinic regulations by arguing that clinics that aren’t properly inspected to ensure they are sterile could expose women to “vaginal organisms” that could cause illness or death:

State Rep. Michele Presnell (R-Burnsville) expressed impatience with how much time was being devoted to debating the bill; it was the first time the version of the legislation containing anti-abortion amendments had been discussed among the full house. “I’m just tired of listening to this whole thing,” Rep. Presnell testified, after saying she would never enter an abortion clinic. “Personally, I prefer that [the pregnant patient] plan ahead. There are a lot of birth procedures that you can take care of in the way of birth control.” Presnell said she hopes any woman seeking an abortion “ask[s] the Lord” if that’s what she should do.

State Rep. Pat Hurley (R-Randolph) asked if there are hospitals that offer abortions in case clinics close because of the bill. “Don’t we have hospitals?” she asked, according to the Carolina Mercury Twitter account, adding, “If they don’t plan ahead, they can go to hospitals can’t they?” Reproductive rights supporters pointed out in the wake of Hurley’s comments that many hospitals do not perform abortions, and abortion procedures tend to be more expensive at hospitals than at clinics.

During the debate on the motorcycle safety act, the subject of motorcycles only entered the debate once Thursday. “I own a motorcycle,” said state Rep. Beverly Earle (D-Mecklenberg). “I want to let my motorcycle buddies know when I vote against this, it has nothing to do with them.”

“We are appalled but not surprised that the House has passed SB 353 in a largely party-line vote,” Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said in a statement. “This bill is the most egregious attack on women’s reproductive rights and safety that we’ve seen in over 40 years. This bill will severely limit women’s access to safe and legal abortion care to the detriment of North Carolina women. The sponsors of SB 353 have shown an utter disregard for women’s health and safety, continuously putting anti-choice political ideology over fair process and democracy.”

The afternoon vote ended with Tillis praising the gallery for remaining silent throughout the entire debate. During that speech, an audience member shouted out at the legislature, and half of the gallery was cleared.

The bill now heads back to the senate for a vote. Should the senate concur, the bill would then go to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory for signature. McCrory said Tuesday that he would veto the Sharia law bill that contained similar amendments, but he supports SB 353. McCrory promised during his 2012 gubernatorial campaign that he would veto any law that restricts abortion.

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.”

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.

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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.