North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said that he will sign a GOP bill tripling the state’s forced waiting period for an abortion, breaking a campaign promise to not sign any legislation that further restricts abortion care.
The house gave HB 465 final approval Wednesday with a 71-43 vote, mostly along partisan lines. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer (R-Charlotte), would mandate that women wait 72 hours before ending a pregnancy, tripling the 24-hour waiting period under current state law.
McCrory denied that increasing the waiting time law would affect access to abortion care. The forced waiting period legislation includes other provisions, such as clinic reporting requirements.
McCrory said in a statement Wednesday that state lawmakers in both the house and senate had made progress toward ensuring the bill protected women’s health.
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“Working with House and Senate members, we ensured that contact, including a simple phone call, would start a reasonable process that protects women’s health,” McCrory said. “We also more clearly and rationally defined medical training and qualifications to ensure there will be no further restrictions on access.”
McCrory also cited provisions unrelated to abortion as reason for his support of the anti-choice legislation.
While the bill was in the senate committee, Republicans added amendments that were similar to policies introduced by Democrats this spring. They included expanding the definition of statutory rape to cover all children younger than 15 and ensuring that sex offenders registered in other states would be prohibited from areas commonly populated by children.
“Therefore, I will sign this bill,” McCrory said.
The declaration breaks a campaign promise McCrory made in his 2012 gubernatorial campaign. During a debate, when asked what kind of bills he would sign that “further restrictions on abortions,” McCrory answered that he would sign “none.”
“Gov. McCrory promised to veto new abortion restrictions, and North Carolina women believed him,” said Alison Kiser, director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, reported the Charlotte Observer. “Going back on his word by allowing these new restrictions to become law would represent a fundamental betrayal of voters’ trust.”
The Raleigh News & Observer published a scathing critique of the governor. The editorial board wrote that McCrory should be “embarrassed” for the decision to sign the bill, and that the governor’s decision to was an act of “political cowardice.”
McCrory defended his decision to sign the legislation and claimed that he was not breaking a campaign promise. “I can’t control your headlines. But due to my work and others [sic] work, we did not add further restrictions to access,” McCrory told WNCN. “I think very few people know about the phone call. Very few articles mention that it can begin with a phone call.”
The bill includes a provision that allows the waiting period to begin if the pregnant person seeking an abortion was “orally informed” either “by telephone or in person.”
Dr. Matthew Zerden, an OB-GYN from Chapel Hill, told the Charlotte Observer that the bill’s practical effect would limit access to abortion care. “Mandatory delays impede abortion access,” Zerden said. “HB 465 is a clear restriction on safe, legal abortion.”
Anti-choice activists in the state celebrated the bill’s passage and the governor’s approval of the bill as a victory in the Republican-dominated legislature.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a statement that the bill was a “major victory” for North Carolina. The North Carolina Values Coalition is a right-wing Christian conservative organization that promotes anti-gay and anti-choice policies.
“We applaud members of the House and Senate for working together to create a strong pro-life bill and urge Governor McCrory to protect women and children in North Carolina by signing HB 465 as quickly as possible,” Fitzgerald said.
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 virtually impossible for medical students at the two universities to learn how to perform abortion care.
Physicians who 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.
Democratic lawmakers and reproductive rights advocates criticized the bill for creating requirements with no medical justification and adding barriers to access of abortion care. “In the majority’s view, a woman’s right to choose is an empty and hollow concept with little meaning,” said Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland), reported the Associated Press.
Medical research suggests that waiting periods are detrimental to women’s health. At least one study concluded that any delay in a woman terminating a pregnancy increased the health risk and cost of abortion care.
Once the decision is made to terminate a pregnancy, a pregnant person should be provided with abortion care as soon as possible, according to recommendations by the World Health Organization.
“Will there be fewer abortions?” said Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Fayetteville), reported the Charlotte Observer. “Hardly—they’ll simply occur elsewhere, in the back alleys and dark rooms.”
The legislation continues a trend of anti-choice measures in North Carolina since Republicans seized the majority in the state legislature after the 2010 midterm elections.
There are 26 states that mandate waiting periods for people seeking an abortion. The majority of these 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, which is set to take effect on November 1.
The North Carolina 72-hour waiting period is scheduled to take effect October 1.