Update: Abortion bill revised | The Daily Reflector


By Michael Abramowitz
Thursday, April 23, 2015

Portions of a proposed N.C. House bill that would have prevented trained family practice physicians from performing and state-employed practitioners from teaching legal abortions were pulled from the bill on Wednesday.

HB 465, originally titled, “An act to clarify and modify certain laws pertaining to abortion,” will, if enacted, have direct consequences for women in eastern North Carolina. Republican House District 8 Rep. Susan Martin, who represents parts of Pitt County, is one of the bill’s primary sponsors. The bill passed its first reading on April 2 and is under review by the House Committee on Health.

Original bill provisions that would directly impact the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University were removed from the bill, District 105 Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer of Charlotte, another of the bill’s primary sponsors, said during a Wednesday press conference.

Current state law prohibits use of state funds for teaching abortion procedures. Outside funding sources, including grants, presently are used for those purposes at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Abortion procedures are not taught at ECU, university officials said.

The original text of HB 465 also would specifically have prohibited any state employee — including ECU doctors and support staff — from performing or supervising the performance of an abortion. It also would have prohibited the use of state facilities for abortions. Both of those provisions, and all references to the universities’ programs, were pulled Wednesday from the bill.

“We realized through consultations with UNC system and Department of Health and Human Services officials that there are some logistical issues involved with access to training to meet accreditation standards,” Schaffer said. “But we now have their attention to make sure we are staying true to the laws on the books, so we’ve taken those (university-related) provisions out of the bill.”

Remaining is a key provision that would increase from 24 hours to 72 hours the required time for a physician or other qualified professional to provide informed consent, either by telephone or in person, before the procedure The requirement would not apply where the life of the mother would be endangered if the unborn child were carried to term or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, according to the text in the bill.

“We want to assure that women deciding whether to terminate a pregnancy have ample time to consider true and accurate information about the nature of the (abortion) procedure and what their options and alternatives are, rather than make an impulsive decision,” Schaffer said. “That empowers women.”

HB 465 originally included a provision that only an obstetrician or gynecologist could perform abortions. Currently, family practice physicians, who also receive qualified training during their medical residencies, are permitted to perform legal abortions. The bill was modified Wednesday to remove the OB/GYN requirement.

Martin and Schaffer said the bill is intended to protect women’s health. Opponents said the bill, if passed, would make abortion less safe and less accessible for women, especially low-income women in more rural parts of the state.

Dr. Dalia Brahmi, a member of the N.C. Academy of Family physicians and a public health expert who specialized in women and children’s health for the World Health Organization, was allowed limited time Wednesday to testify before the House Health Committee, where the bill now sits for review.

She said it does not improve the quality of health care.

“As proposed, HB 465 would mandate a medically unnecessary 72-hour delay before obtaining an abortion, which is a legal and proven safe medical procedure,” Brahmi said. “Delaying access limits the options of medical abortion — in some cases forcing women to have a surgical procedure, when a less invasive treatment such as abortion with pills might be preferred.”

Martin on Monday described HB 465 as a good bill on a topic about which people on both sides are passionate and emotional.

“This bill does nothing to limit access or limit a woman’s ability to choose,” she said. “It provides enough time for women to make a good decision without having any negative impact on them.”

The General Assembly in 2013 directed DHHS to pull together a group of stakeholders on the subject of legal abortion and submit to the Legislature some rules for its consideration that would bring abortion providers in line with other ambulatory surgical centers. Those rules have been approved by DHHS Secretary Dr. Aldona Vos, Gov. Pat McCrory and agreed upon by all the stakeholders involved, but have not yet been implemented.