N.C. governor mulls new abortion regulations

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory AP Photo/Gerry Broome

North Carolina's Republican-led legislature has approved new abortion rules that backers say will make the procedure safer, but that critics say aim to restrict the ability of women to have abortions by forcing clinics to close.

The state Senate gave final approval Thursday to a measure empowering the state Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules to regulate abortion clinics based on the same standards as those for outpatient surgery centers.

Ten state legislatures this year have approved more than 40 abortion-restricting measures, requiring longer waiting periods and/or ultrasounds before women can have the procedure. Most recently, Texas joined seven other states - including North Carolina - in approving a 20-week abortion ban and regulations that'll close most clinics in the state.

As it did in Texas, the debate over the new rules has led to weeks of protests and arrests. Groups supporting abortion rights are trying to pressure Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to veto the measure, citing his campaign vow not to sign any new abortion restrictions into law.

"This bill would severely limit access to safe and legal abortion, causing women to resort to desperate measures," Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards said in a statement. "This bill would take women back 40 years, and we won't go back."

But McCrory indicated he would sign the House-written version of this bill - which is what the Senate approved - because it could "better protect women while not further limiting access," saying in a written statement last week.

Abortion rights groups, however, say the measure could force clinics to make costly changes or risk being shut down. One of the state's 16 abortion clinics currently meets the new regulations and some say they'd have to close if the measure becomes law, according to the News Observer.

In Wisconsin, a judge recently extended a stay on a law that would shut down many of the state's abortion clinics - it requires doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

An onslaught of restrictive measures came about this summer after a Philadelphia abortion provider was convicted of first-degree murder for snipping unborn babies' spinal cords. In July, Ohio passed a law that requires women hear about their fetus' features and pain from the procedure as well as an ultrasound.

An existing North Carolina provision requiring ultrasounds is currently under court review. The bill now on McCrory's desk would also block abortions from the state exchange insurance through the Affordable Care Act as well as the county and city employee health insurance.

"What is wrong with reasonable standards?" state Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-N.C., said. "In light of the multiple abortion clinics closed in our state and in Philadelphia - what's the matter with a little bit of reason?"

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