North Carolina's Senate voted for preliminary approval of an anti-abortion bill Tuesday, whose strict requirements would result in all but one of North Carolina's abortion clinics shutting down. The bill was quietly tacked on to an existing bill that restricted the use of foreign law in family courts.

The measure came unexpectedly late in the day Tuesday, unknown to the public, when the committee decided to add the anti-abortion bill onto the only planned piece of legislation. Republicans said the bill was added so late simply because time constraints prohibited it from arriving earlier. Democrats expressed great outrage that the bill's late addition was designed to let it slip under the radar, because it wouldn't otherwise be passed.

"It just took a while for there to be a consensus of support for it within our caucus," said Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, chairman of the Senate Judiciary 1 Committee. "Sometimes these things come together at the last minute."

Newton's committee was originally scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. That meeting was cancelled, WRAL reports.

The Senate met for a greater part of the rest of the day, handling other bills in various committees on the floor. Newton's Judiciary 1 Committee was scheduled to appear again at 5:30 p.m., the only scheduled piece of legislation being House Bill 695, which already cleared the House in May and prevented family courts from invoking foreign law, such as Islam's Sharia law.

A surprise came when the committee tacked on the amendment to include the abortion bill as well. The move came without much attention; however, lobbyists for nonprofits with religious and moral purposes — such as the Family Policy Council, Christian Action League, and North Carolina Values Coalition — were present for the committee debate and subsequent Senate debate. "Senators noted that those lobbyists were given notice of the bill and its contents ahead of time," according to WRAL.

"They're doing it quietly on Fourth of July weekend because they've seen what's going on in Texas and know that women will turn out," said Melissa Reed, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Health Systems, referring to the protests surrounding a similar bill in Texas. She said Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights advocates had no idea the measure would be taken up Tuesday.


The measures of the bill have sweeping, and potentially devastating, implications for abortion clinics across the state of North Carolina.

The abortion provisions include:

CONSCIENCE PROTECTION: Any health care provider, including doctors and nurses, has the ability to opt out of providing abortion-related services.

ABORTION FUNDING LIMITS: Health plans offered on the federal health care exchanges from offering abortion coverage are prohibited. State funds spent on abortions are also prohibited, except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.

It also prohibits city and county health plans from offering abortion coverage more extensive than the coverage offered to state employees. The State Health Plan does not cover abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

SEX-SELECTIVE ABORTIONS: Doctors cannot legally perform an abortion if they know the woman is only having it because of the fetus' sex.

DOCTOR PRESENCE: Doctors must remain in the room for the entire abortion procedure, whether surgical or medical (chemically-induced).

(A medical abortion is performed by taking one pill, waiting two days and then taking a second pill that contracts the uterus. It's unclear for how much of that process the physician would have to be present.)

Roughly half of the abortions performed in the state are medical abortions, according to WRAL.

TRANSFER AGREEMENTS: Abortion clinics are required to have "transfer agreements" with local hospitals — a point that Reed says would essentially limit how many clinics could operate due to hospitals refusing because of lack of incentive.

LICENSING: Abortions clinics are required to go through a licensing process similar to that of outpatient surgical clinics.

Opponents like Reed say the licensing provision unnecessarily prevents access to abortions, while advocates cite safety measures as their justification. Opponents say safety seldom fluctuates across licensed and unlicensed clinics, which can provide statistically riskier procedures like colonoscopies and oral surgery.


The anti-abortion bill passed 27-14, moving it to a formal vote Wednesday. If that vote passes as well, the bill travels to the House for final approval. The House has already approved some of the provisions of the bill, further alarming Democrats who already see the bill's movement through the Senate as unjust.

"This bill and this process is not worthy of this chamber," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, who added that the process prevents the public from learning about the bill in its entirety.

Republicans challenged that assertion, saying Democrats had full access and opportunity to debate the bill on the Senate floor.

"We've never cut them off from making their points," said Berger, R-Rockingham, adding that every senator who wanted to speak had a chance to do so.

As to adding the bill so late, "it is not something that is unheard of," he said. "It is not something that is inappropriate, in my opinion."