N.C. lawmakers seek more abortion limits

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverMay 11, 2011 

The state is doing an about-face on abortion policy, with a slate of proposals that seek to limit abortions under consideration in the legislature.

A House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote today on a package of changes that abortion-rights opponents have pushed for years. They include a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, a requirement for ultrasounds and a description of the images by medical providers, and a requirement that minors seeking abortions have notarized parental consent.

On Tuesday, a House committee discussed a bill that would authorize the Division of Motor Vehicles to issue "Choose Life" license plates for an extra fee. The money raised would go to nonprofit groups that serve pregnant women but do not provide abortions. The "Choose Life" plate is in a bill that would authorize dozens of other specialty plates. But the committee shot down an attempt to add to the bill a "Trust Women; Respect Choice" plate with the money going to Planned Parenthood.

In addition, the House rolled provisions into its budget that would prevent Planned Parenthood from getting state grants or federal grants that pass through the state for teen pregnancy prevention and women's health programs, and prevents the state employee health plan from paying for abortions. The health plan, which covers about 663,000 state employees, teachers, dependents and retirees, paid for 161 abortions last year.

While many of the measures are still being debated and others still must go before the Senate, abortion opponents already have one victory this year - a new law that recognizes murder, assault or manslaughter in the harm of an embryo or fetus.

North Carolina is one of many states considering new abortion limits, the floodgates opened by Republican dominance of legislatures across the country.

In the past, similar bills were buried in the state's Democratic-controlled legislature.

"For far too long, North Carolina has been the only state in the South that has stood out as not having very many protective laws," said Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life. "In a way, we're just catching up to other states."

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