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N.C. House passes restrictive abortion bill

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 8:18 PM EDT, Thu July 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The bill now heads to the state Senate for approval
  • It includes a requirement for doctors to be present at an abortion
  • It also prohibits government-administered insurance plans to pay for abortions
  • Critics say the bill would make it hard for abortion clinics to stay in business

(CNN) -- North Carolina's House of Representatives passed a restrictive abortion bill Thursday with a 74-41 vote. The bill now heads to the state Senate for approval.

The bill would place requirements on clinics that family planning advocates say would make it hard for them to stay in business. Among the requirements is the presence of a doctor when an abortion is being performed.

The bill allows North Carolina's health department to make temporary new rules for the state's 31 abortion clinics as it sees fit.

It also prohibits government-administered insurance plans, such as those under the Affordable Care Act, to pay for abortions -- though it makes exceptions when a pregnancy endangers a woman's life.

House committee members refashioned a bill on motorcycle safety into one principally about abortion after the state's governor threatened on Wednesday to veto the abortion measures. That led the bill to be dubbed the "Motorcycle Abortion Bill."

When legislators attached the abortion measures to the motorcycle safety bill, they placed them at the top of the bill and renamed it "Health and Safety Law Changes." motorcycle safety measures dropped to the bottom of the bill.

Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, vowed to veto the abortion legislation the first time it came up.

In his campaign, he had promised not to restrict abortion in North Carolina, and abortion-rights advocates lobbied to hold him to his word.

McCrory warned in a statement that the legislation was unacceptable without significant changes, but he noted in his objections "that major portions of the bill are of sound (principle) and value."

The language of the bill was reworded somewhat the second time around. It now says the health department should make rules without "unduly restricting access."

McCrory could still veto, though there are enough conservative votes in the House and Senate to override it.

A similar but stricter law passed in Mississippi is coming close to shutting down that state's last abortion clinic. Another such law passed in Alabama earlier this year.

These new state laws represent a broader, nationwide assault on a woman's right to choose, said Staci Fox, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman.

"Bills like these have been introduced in 42 states. This is a whole new level of attack on women's health."

Some of the states that have already passed new laws did so in anticipation of legal challenges and have shored up war chests to fund the battles, she said.

They are prepared to go to court, even to challenge the landmark Supreme Court abortion ruling Roe v. Wade that provides the basic legal framework for abortion in the United States.

Abortion opponents confirm the judicial strategy behind the laws.

Americans United for Life states: "Using our model legislation and our hard-won expertise with abortion clinic regulations, we also intend to provoke future, strategic 'test cases' -- federal and state legal challenges to carefully crafted and selected state laws -- that will serve as vehicles to severely undermine Roe v. Wade and, ultimately, eradicate it from American law."

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