Republican lawmakers approved a statewide abortion bill in North Carolina Thursday in an effort, they said, to make abortion clinics safer for women. Opponents of the bill claim it unnecessarily complicates the procedure and limits a woman's access to an abortion.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 74-41, aims to reshape abortion clinic standards by making them more like typical outpatient procedures in a hospital. Doctors would have to be present for a surgical abortion and for the first dose of a chemically induced abortion.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has already expressed his interest in keeping the current standards for abortion clinics in the state, so he is likely to veto a highly restrictive bill that reaches him. The current bill that passed in the House received a few tweaks after McCrory's review of a Senate bill last Thursday, which silently got tacked onto a bill about invoking foreign law in domestic disputes.

Gov. McCrory said the current House bill headed in the right direction in terms of pushing for safer standards; however, he felt it could restrict a woman's access to an abortion.

Officials said the standards have not been changed in North Carolina since 1994.

The governor hasn't spoken publicly about the updated measure, which now must return to the GOP-led Senate next week. It would have to get approved there before it goes to McCrory's desk, according to FOX News.

Controversy Between Left And Right

Democrats have criticized the bill as being overly protective — that less regulated clinics, such as those that perform colonoscopies and oral surgery, actually pose greater health risks than an abortion clinic.

Democrats also added that unlicensed clinics don't differ dramatically in safety precautions from licensed clinics.

"It's a very bold in-your-face vicious attack on women's health," said Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford.

"This bill is not about safety," added Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson. "It is about limiting choice."

However, Republicans maintain a different stance, citing the health department's closing of two clinics in Durham and Charlotte as signs that upgraded standards are in order.

"We've looked at the documented complaints," said Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry. "Don't tell me this isn't about health and safety. That is exactly what it's about."

Health isn't the only priority of the bill; certain discriminatory procedures would also see changes under its passage. Doctors could no longer perform abortions on the basis of the fetus' sex, but they would have expanded ability not to perform the procedure on ethical or religious grounds to other medical professionals.

Insurance coverage for abortions would also be reduced under the new bill.

Similar to last week's measure that got tacked onto an existing foreign law bill, Thursday's measure quietly joined a bill on increasing penalties for motorcycle accidents. Little or no advanced notice was made about the bill, incensing democrats over the subversion of the whole process.

Some women opposed to the bills wore motorcycle helmets in the gallery at the time of the vote. Five women wore white shirts, each with a letter to spell "SHAME." They stood during the debate.

"If they're so concerned about women's health and safety," asked Paige Johnson with Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, "why are they afraid of public scrutiny?"

Playing The Waiting Game

Johnson anticipates McCrory vetoing the House measure once it reaches him. She said until that happens, she'll continue applying pressure to ensure the majority of North Carolina abortion clinics do not shut down. Under the new restrictions, all but four of the state's clinics would be forced to close their doors due to the costly upgrades required, women's health groups said.

A handful of clinics in South Carolina and Virginia have already shut down because of similar requirements, the health groups added.

Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, one of the House bill's primary sponsors, told colleagues that state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos supported the new bill's language.

She said House leaders gave time for representatives to consider the Senate bill and debate the House substitute.