Defending a new abortion-related bill introduced in the North Carolina State House this week, one of the bill’s co-sponsors said that a positive byproduct of the restrictions would be “a few more little taxpayers born.”
WRAL reported Wednesday that House Bill 465 would triple the state’s 24-hour waiting period for abortions to 72 hours and prohibit doctors at the medical schools of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or East Carolina University from performing the procedure. A third provision would require that any physician performing an abortion be an obstetrician or gynecologist.
Responding to recent criticism, Republican state Rep. Pat McElraft pushed back on the idea that her fellow legislators would rather focus on less-divisive legislation. “We are multi-taskers here in the General Assembly,” McElraft said, according to WRAL. “I am absolutely an advocate for jobs, but we can do lots of the things. And actually, when we can have a few more little taxpayers born, why not?”
In a seemingly contradictory defense of the legislation, McElraft said both that the bill was meant to reduce the number of abortion procedures performed and that it wasn’t an attempt to restrict the right to the procedure. “There’s no effort here to try to restrict a woman’s right to have an abortion,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is make her care competent.”
Targeting medical education
Speaking to the restrictions on medical training, McElraft said she would prefer providers learn how to perform the procedure via “other options,” rather than in university hospitals, arguing that taxpayers didn’t want public funds to be used toward the training. “There are opportunities for doctors to learn this,” McElraft said, according to WRAL. “Abortion physicians learn from all kinds of training — spontaneous abortions or miscarriages. Sometimes, you learn how to act in an emergency situation.”
That’s actually patently false. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “Legal, regulatory, and other restrictions form barriers to education and training in abortion care. As a result, educators may encounter multiple obstacles to integrating appropriate training.” The ACOG cites three primary legislative barriers to education and training in abortion care:
- Public funding or other restrictions on medical schools and teaching hospitals that limit abortion education and training for medical students and residents
- Restrictions that limit abortion provision to physicians only or obstetrician–gynecologists only
- Restrictions that burden access to abortion in other ways, thereby increasing difficulty in abortion provision and training (e.g., mandatory delays and waiting periods for patients and hospital privileging requirements)
If those look familiar, it’s because they are all included in North Carolina’s new package of abortion restrictions.
Mandatory abortion waiting periods
If the legislation passes, North Carolina would join other three other states — Missouri, Utah and South Dakota — that mandate a 72-hour waiting period before the procedure. The most common duration of a waiting period is 24 hours, like North Carolina’s current requirement, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The bill in the North Carolina state House would not require two separate trips to the clinic, as other states do, allowing for patients to have the first conversation over the phone.
Proponents of mandatory waiting period laws claim they ensure that patients have time to receive counseling and consider all the options before having an abortion. In defense of the North Carolina bill, McElraft said “it just gives a little more time for such an important decision as abortion.”
In reality, studies show that these laws have no impact on women’s decisions about the procedure. Women have already spent a significant amount of time thinking about it and are confident about their choice by the time they go to have the procedure. More than 9 out of 10 women say they are “completely sure” about their decision by the time they go into pre-abortion counseling, and the vast majority say that “nothing” could have changed their mind.
In fact, studies have shown that mandatory waiting periods hurt patients, causing both emotional and financial harm. Additionally, these laws can mean a forced delay of days or even weeks, compelling a woman to undergo a later abortion that poses increased risks to her health. Many clinics offer abortion services only two or three days a week, with waiting lists for appointments – even when a woman is able to get an appointment, she may be unable to return due to work, family or lack of resources. So, instead of being able to undergo a first trimester abortion — which is among the safest procedures in modern medicine — women are forced to wait until later in their pregnancy, when the procedure is more invasive and involves the use of general anesthesia. Indeed , research shows that states where mandatory waiting periods are enacted experience a significant increase in second trimester abortions.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) campaigned on a pledge to not further restrict access to abortions before he was elected in 2012, but that promise has been tested by the Republican-controlled legislature, which passed a separate set of abortion-related regulations the next year.
The state is currently defending a 2011 law — passed via an override of former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto — that would require providers to perform an ultrasound, display the image and describe the fetus before the abortion can be performed. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck the law down in December, but the state is asking the Supreme Court to review that decision.