The NC Senate plans to take a final vote Monday night on a bill that will extend the state’s 24-hour waiting period on abortions to 72 hours.
The bill, HB 465, would then have to return to the House for a concurring vote after changes in the Senate, or it will go into a conference committee before being presented to the governor for signing.
The Senate plans to reconvene Monday evening at 7 p.m. for discussions on the bill and the final vote.
The bill requires physicians provide pregnant women with certain information, including information about medical assistance benefits, public assistance programs, alternatives such as adoption, the knowledge that the father is liable for assistance in supporting the child, and that she is free to withdraw her consent at any time in the process without giving up her right to government assistance programs to support her child.
Under the bill, only physicians certified in obstetrics and gynecology (ob/gyn) would be able to perform abortions as well.
Opponents say that the bill will limit access to abortions, while proponents say it gives pregnant women more time to consider a decision of such huge magnitude with the information provided by their physician.
The Senate passed the bill in a 31-15 vote Thursday night, with one Republican voting against the measure.
Before coming to a vote, the Senate dealt with six proposed amendments to the bill with two more being withdrawn before the vote.
The two remaining amendments will likely be discussed before a third reading Monday evening.
The majority of the amendments, most of which were brought by Democrats, failed on the Senate floor.
String of amendments fail on the floor
During debate on the bill, of the eight amendments, one was approved while two were withdrawn, one was tabled and the remaining five failed.
Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) put forth the only adopted amendment, which just changed the age for committing a crime in the presence of a minor from 16 to 18 years old.
Democrat women brought six of the eight amendments, which is not an unusual practice in bills relating to topics seen as women’s issues.
An amendment brought by Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram (D-Chowan) would have reduced the waiting period to 48 hours, but failed in a vote.
The bill also revises the definition for statutory rape in the state to anyone 15 or under, as opposed to just including ages, (13, 14 and 15). In addition, it calls for the formation of a Maternal Mortality Review Commission to study the causes of expectant mothers dying and to help discover ways to mitigate those causes.
Under the bill abortions could only be carried out by qualified physicians.
The bill defines a qualified physician as “a physician who possesses, or is eligible to possess, board certification in obstetrics or gynecology or a physician who performs an abortion in a medical emergency.”
An amendment brought by Sen. Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) would have allowed physicians without ob/gyn certifications that had already been performing abortions in their “day-to-day practice” to continue performing them.
Under the bill, the 72-hour waiting period could only be violated if an abortion was necessary to avert the mother’s death or a delay would “create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
The statute does make clear that the risk has to be to a physical function by specifying that psychological and emotional conditions do not qualify.
An amendment brought by Sen. Valerie Foushee (D-Orange) would have stripped that language out of the bill, as well as adding in a section allowing physicians to waive the 72-hour waiting period for expectant mothers who state they are under threat of violence, fear for their safety or are a survivor of domestic violence.
Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford) brought forth an amendment that was tabled that would allow a physician to waive the 72-hour requirement in the case of a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or if the unborn child had, in the physician’s reasonable opinion, a “profound and irremediable fetal anomaly that is incompatible with sustained life outside the womb.”