ON WEDNESDAY, just before the Fourth of July holiday, North Carolina Republicans added a slew of anti-abortion restrictions at the last minute to a bill otherwise concerned with banning Sharia law (already a questionable endeavor, but never mind that now).
Following Virginia, whose General Assembly voted in 2011 to require abortion clinics to meet hospital — rather than doctor’s office — standards, ostensibly in the name of safety, the North Carolina Senate joined a growing number of state legislatures mandating stricter standards for abortion clinics. Safety in abortion clinics is a legitimate concern, but these regulations probably will have little effect on patient safety.
Many of the requirements are costly and cosmetic, requiring clinics — without financial assistance from the state — to widen hallways, doorways and even entrance awnings. North Carolina’s bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to devise a list of criteria the state’s 16 clinics would have to meet. According to women’s health advocates, all but one of the clinics probably would close because of the associated costs.
In recent weeks, similar debates have taken place in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country. In Texas, where state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) led her now-famous 11-hour filibuster, legislation is still pending that probably would end with the closure of all but five of the state’s 42 abortion clinics. In Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich (R) upheld similar anti-abortion measures tacked onto a budget proposal at the last minute just last week, the Columbus Dispatch reports that at least one of the state’s 12 licensed clinics is already feeling the pinch.
In pretending to promote safety, the actual accomplishment of these amendments would be to place an undue burden on women seeking abortions. Fewer clinics means less access to licensed, well-equipped providers. Where is the safety in that? These restrictions are disingenuous attempts to infringe on a woman’s ability to make constitutionally protected decisions in consultation with her doctor.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has rightly spoken out against the shoddy way these amendments were added to unrelated legislation at the 11th hour: “Regardless of what party is in charge or what important issue is being discussed,” he said in a statement last week, “the process must be appropriate and thorough.”
In fact, disrespect for process is a disturbing commonality in many of these proposed restrictions and further evidence of their true intent. Any law that will limit women’s access to abortion and to much other health care deserves a public hearing. Honesty about the true motivation of these laws would be welcome, too.