North Carolina's sweeping abortion ban faces scrutiny from state health regulators

State health regulators voiced concerns that major provisions of the bill may not be "medically sound" or legal

By Katie McDonough
Published July 10, 2013 2:27PM (EDT)
                    (Gerry Broome/AP)
(Gerry Broome/AP)

Last week, Republicans lawmakers in North Carolina waited until a late-day committee meeting on the eve of a long holiday weekend to stack an alarmist "anti-Sharia Law" bill with a series of sweeping abortion restrictions.

State Democrats criticized the move as an attempt to silence debate from opponents, but Republicans' efforts to fast-track a vote before the summer recess may have been thwarted by the state’s public health regulators, who told lawmakers on Tuesday that they have serious concerns about the proposed law.

More from Raleigh's News & Observer:

Dr. Aldona Wos, the [Department of Health and Human Services] secretary, said that no one had asked her department’s opinion on the legislation and that the agency has concerns about the provision requiring it to rewrite regulations for abortion clinics, including imposing a higher level of regulation similar to what covers ambulatory surgical centers. Only one abortion clinic in the state meets the more stringent regulations, and the 16 others could be forced to close, according to the agency.

Wos said the department and the governor agree with some aspects of the bill -- such as allowing health care providers who oppose abortion on moral grounds not to participate, and providing health information for expectant mothers.

“But there are other parts of the bill that are far more complex and require further discussion and clarity prior to passage to ensure they are medically sound, safe and legal,” Wos said.

Drexdal Pratt, director of health service regulations at DHHS, told the committee that the agency was concerned about the implementation and consequences of a proposed regulation to require that abortion clinics meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, as well as a requirement that a physician be present during medicinal abortions, a process that takes place over several days.

The restrictions have been denounced by reproductive rights advocates as a transparent attempt to scale back access to abortion in the state.

Some Republicans in the House have also voiced objections to the measure, as state Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Huntersville, told The Charlotte Observer: “I didn’t come up here to vote on social issues. I came up here to get jobs back.”

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has also vowed to veto the measure "unless significant changes and clarifications are made," though he believes that "major portions of the bill are of sound principal and value."


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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