North Carolina Republicans Advance 72-Hour Waiting Period Bill

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North Carolina Republicans Advance 72-Hour Waiting Period Bill

Teddy Wilson

The bill is part of state Republican lawmakers’ two-pronged assault on reproductive rights.

The North Carolina Senate passed a bill Thursday that would put in place a 72-hour waiting period for pregnant people seeking abortion care. The bill is part of state Republican lawmakers’ two-pronged assault on reproductive rights.

HB 465 would mandate that women wait 72 hours before ending a pregnancy, tripling the 24-hour waiting period under current state law. The forced waiting period bill includes other provisions, such as clinic reporting requirements and a ban on using University of North Carolina Health Care System money for abortion care.

Physicians that provide abortions past 16 weeks’ gestation would be required to document the probable age of the fetus and report that information, including an ultrasound, to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

The bill would also prohibit any department at East Carolina University or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from permitting an employee to perform or supervise the performance of an abortion as part of the employee’s official duties. The prohibition would make it impossible for medical students at the two universities to learn how to perform abortion care.

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The GOP-controlled senate passed the anti-choice bill with a 33-15 vote, and will likely receive final approval Monday.

While the bill was in the senate committee, Republicans added amendments that were similar to policies introduced by Democrats this spring. A pair of amendments mirrored regulations previously filed by Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) that would expand the definition of statutory rape to cover all children younger than 15 and ensure that sex offenders registered in other states would be prohibited from areas commonly populated by children.

Jackson called the amendments a blatant attempt to force Democrats into votes that could later be used as “weapons against” them in political campaign ads. “They’re such good ideas that they decided to include them in legislation that they know Democrats are likely to oppose,” Jackson told the Associated Press.

No Democrats voted for the senate’s forced waiting period bill, while two Republican legislators voted against it.

The house passed the original version of the bill in April in a 74-45 party-line vote.

If passed, the bill will head to a conference committee consisting of members from both the senate and house, which will reconcile the differences between the versions passed by the two chambers. The senate passed a substitute version of the house bill that was first introduced before the committee hearing Wednesday.

If the conference committee can produce a reconciled version, the bill will then head to Gov. Pat McCrory for signature or veto.

An anti-choice advocate said during the senate committee that the waiting period was needed so that women seeking abortion would change their minds. “What we see is the time actually empowers women,” Wendy Banister said. “Time allows them to change their minds.”

Banister is the executive director of the crisis pregnancy center (CPC) Gateway, a self described “Christ-centered ministry” in Raleigh.

Democratic lawmakers offered five amendments, including an amendment to reduce the proposed waiting period from 72 hours to 48 hours. The Republican majority rejected all of the amendments.

Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram (D-Northampton) said the bill interferes with women’s bodily autonomy.

“We have a brain, we have bodies,” Smith-Ingram said, reported the Charlotte News & Observer. “You have no ability to understand this decision made by women about their bodies. It is a very difficult decision… It is insulting to say that I cannot make up my mind and I need 72 hours to consider my options.”

Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. (D-Durham) expressed frustration over the GOP’s attempts to restrict access to abortion care. “I guess if this body could overturn Roe v. Wade they would,” McKissick said, reported the Charlotte News & Observer. “But the next best thing is to put up one hurdle after another.”

There are 26 states that mandate waiting periods for pregnant people seeking an abortion, the majority of which require a 24-hour waiting period, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Lawmakers in several states have introduced bills this year to create or lengthen waiting periods.

North Carolina would join four states—South Dakota, Utah, Missouri, and Oklahoma—with 72-hour waiting periods. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill into law this month that increased Oklahoma’s forced waiting period from 24 to 72 hours.