In June 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down its first major decision on abortion rights in over a decade, and it was a decision that reaffirmed the right of Americans to access abortion. And in directly striking down a number of Texas laws as creating an “undue burden” to abortion access, the SCOTUS’ decision reaffirmed that abortion cannot be available only in theory, but also has to be available in practice. Arbitrary and politically motivated restrictions that have nothing to do with the health and safety of the patient seeking an abortion and everything to do with making it inaccessible were no longer going to pass constitutional muster.
Not that the SCOTUS’ decision alone was enough to undo the hundreds of restrictions that have been put in place since the legalization of abortion in 1973; including the nearly 300 that were enacted just between 2010 and 2015. In Texas and other states, reproductive freedom advocates, including lawmakers and attorneys, will have to repeal restrictions via new laws, or challenge existing restrictions in court.
Over 28 restrictions have been introduced in North Carolina since abortion was legalized in 1973, with over 18 of those regulations coming since 2011. Legal and provider advocates in North Carolina are taking on the arbitrary 20-week ban. And just a few weeks ago, North Carolina lawmakers and abortion rights advocates recognized the introduction of the Whole Women’s Health Act (short title) – a bill to specifically repeal some of the worst restrictions that have been introduced in the state in the past few years.
But while the SCOTUS 2016 decision should have put anti-abortion lawmakers on notice that they can’t continue these kinds of attacks on abortion access, some North Carolina lawmakers are much more interested in pushing their own oppressive agenda at the expense of reproductive freedom. There have been four bills filed so far: HB62 and HB575 would both mandate that doctors tell patients that “abortion reversal” is an accepted medical procedure; SB425 is a ban of a very common and safe method of abortion; and HB163, is a “right to life from conception” bill.
Reproductive rights and freedom advocates are watching these bills closely, particularly during this week of “crossover” (deadline for bills is midnight on April 27). Whichever one of these bills moves, however, we feel the issues in the bills are similar:
- lawmakers are attempting to insert themselves into the exam room, and to tell doctors how to practice.
- these bills have nothing to do with the health and safety of the people seeking the abortion, and in fact may increase risk to the patients.
- these proposed bills are just the latest attempts to restrict access to abortion, something North Carolina lawmakers have been doing since the legalization of abortion.
What happens during this next week will be indicative of what anti-abortion lawmakers and their supporters envision for how they will further attempt to restrict access to abortion this next year, and we know we have to remain vigilant to protect the full range of reproductive rights, including access to abortion. To stay-up-to-date on the latest actions you can take to protect reproductive freedom for all North Carolinians, sign up for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s Rapid Response Squad. With your help, we can make sure we protect what we know the majority of Americans support – access to safe and legal abortion for women who make that decision. Thank you for your commitment to reproductive freedom!