On the heels of attacks on reproductive rights in Texas and Ohio, a bill seen as a "sneak attack" on women's rights was approved by the North Carolina Senate and sent to the GOP-dominated House on Wednesday. Cloaked by "backdoor maneuvering," the bill was crafted late in the day on Tuesday when state senators added a number of new, anti-abortion restrictions to an unrelated bill and voted to pass a second reading without notifying the public.
Although the bill was introduced quietly, hundreds of people flocked to the statehouse on Wednesday to demonstrate as Senators voted. According to local news outlet the News & Observer, following the vote people who had filled the hall chanted “Shame, shame, shame.” A woman in the gallery who yelled “Shame on you” was arrested.
"This is a cowardly move intended to silence pro-choice voices because they know that if they show their extreme agenda in the light of day, they’ll hear from us."- Suzanne Buckley, NARAL The anti-abortion bill would essentially shut down legal abortions within the state. If passed, the law would require clinics that provide the service to meet license standards similar to those of outpatient surgery centers. Only one clinic in North Carolina meets this standard, which would mean a forced closing of all other facilities including the state's four Planned Parenthood centers. The law would also require the presence of a doctor when a woman takes an abortion-inducing drug.
NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Director Suzanne Buckley condemned the action:
North Carolina’s anti-choice lawmakers are taking their cues from underhanded attacks on women’s reproductive rights in Texas and Ohio. In the final minutes of marking up an unrelated piece of legislation, the Senate Judiciary committee swiftly tacked on every anti-choice piece of legislation introduced since January to this bill and sent the bill to the floor with no warning in an rare evening session.
The politicians who responsible for this backdoor maneuvering have taken seriously the rising tide of activists gathering weekly outside the General Assembly to oppose anti-choice legislation. Unfortunately, the lesson they’ve taken is that the best way to accomplish their goals is to hide their maneuvers from the public.
This is a cowardly move intended to silence pro-choice voices because they know that if they show their extreme agenda in the light of day, they’ll hear from us.
Policy Director for the NC ACLU Sarah Preston was also alarmed, calling the "hastily pushed through" legislation a "sneak attack" on women's rights "absolutely shameful." She continued:
These loathsome restrictions and the deceitful method through which the Senate tried to pass them are an obvious effort to not simply prevent women in North Carolina from having comprehensive access to much-needed health care, but to not even give them an opportunity to weigh in on legislation that will have wide-ranging impacts on women and doctors all across our state.
Before the abortion restrictions were tacked on, the bill focused on a ban on the consideration of "foreign laws" within the state's family court, especially Sharia law. MSNBC's Steve Benen commented on the combination of the two bills, noting that "Republican state senators are so terrified by the prospect of religious law being considered in North Carolina that they're pushing a legislative fix—which just so happens to include a provision shaped by Republican state senators' religious beliefs."
Reactions and photos via twitter are ongoing:
Lucia Brown is a summer editorial intern at Common Dreams.