The North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill in the dead of night banning abortion after 12 weeks, rushing through a monster list of restrictions that will destroy access to the procedure in the southern United States.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled chamber close to midnight Wednesday by a vote of 71-46, along party lines. It goes to the Senate on Thursday, where it is also expected to pass since Senator Tricia Cotham switched her party affiliation to Republican a month ago. Her party change now gives the state GOP enough votes to override an expected veto from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.
The measure technically bans abortion after 12 weeks, but in reality, the window could be much shorter. People would also only be allowed to get a medication abortion until 10 weeks of pregnancy. In order to get a medication abortion, people would be required to go to three separate, in-person appointments. Those appointments would have to be 72 hours apart. That means people would have to sort out time off work, child care, and a host of other logistics for a nearly two-week period.
The bill mandates that the legislature would have to appoint a rules commission to overhaul abortion clinic regulations by October. New rules could potentially force clinics to undergo costly (and unnecessary) changes, temporarily or even permanently shutting them down if they are unable to comply. It would also require health care providers to care for infants “born alive”—which health experts agree rarely occurs and could negatively impact post-birth care—and could restrict access to abortion based on a patient’s reason for wanting one.
“This is a horrendous, monster abortion ban cloaked in medical misinformation, misdirection, and straight-up lies,” said Jillian Riley, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, in a statement. “Politicians are putting pregnant people at risk and stripping us of our rights to build our families and futures.”
Republicans are rushing the bill through the state legislature, with Democrats slamming them for trying to circumvent democracy. Rather than introduce a fresh bill, Republicans gutted an unrelated measure on child safety and then inserted 46 pages of abortion restrictions. They unveiled the text Wednesday night, giving lawmakers less than 11 hours to read it before it went to committee hearing. Instead of going through a traditional (lengthy) committee process, Republicans added the bill as a conference report, allowing them to go right to a vote.
“This bill should be the most deliberated of any of the bills that we do. This should have been something that went through a full committee process in both chambers instead of people scrambling to figure out what it does and does not do,” said House Minority Leader Robert Reives during the hearing earlier Wednesday.
Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue stressed “medical experts should have weighed in on” the bill. “This is a poor showing of democracy,” he charged.
North Carolina currently allows abortion up to 21 weeks, which has made it a haven for the procedure in the southern U.S. If this bill becomes law, then it will have a devastating effect on reproductive rights in the South on its own.
Just a few weeks ago, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a hugely unpopular six-week abortion ban into law. Florida was another abortion haven. Taken in conjunction, these two abortion restrictions will destroy abortion access across the entire South.