On Tuesday night, while you were probably busy scanning Pinterest for apple pie recipes, North Carolina followed in the steps of Rick Perry. Republicans are becoming so imaginative when it comes to sneaking draconian anti-abortion bills into legislation, that this time they decided to latch it onto a law about Sharia. Because nothing says we don't want foreign religious laws governing our state like religiously motivated legislation controlling women's bodies! Apparently, the Republicans in North Carolina believe that the war on women can only be motivated by a single religious ideology. Their own.
The Huffington Post reports that the radical anti-abortion bill came out of nowhere during a late-day committee hearing on Tuesday night.
"Until 5:30 p.m., the measure on the committee's calendar only reflected a bill that dealt with the family law provisions of the bill. That measure itself was controversial when it cleared the House, with opponents fearing it could interfere with recognition of U.S. law in foreign courts. However, almost immediately, the committee took up an amendment to the bill that dealt with abortion."
Why did regulations about abortion get unexpectedly tacked onto a bill about "foreign laws" at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night? Maybe because they knew that their democratic colleagues and constituents wouldn't agree with them? Or maybe they observed what happened in Texas and thought "woah why didn't we think of that?!" Suzanne Buckley, from NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina said. "It seems to me that they're trying to pass under cover of darkness legislation that would not otherwise be passed. They're trying to pull a Texas."
Right before the vote took place, Senator Martin Nesbitt took the floor to warn his colleagues of the consequences that the bill would have for women's health. He explained that ideologically driven policy will put the lives of thousands of women in danger.
Similarly to Texas, the Republican legislature in North Carolina is outright lying to justify their policy on the grounds that it would improve women's health. Forcing abortion clinics to adhere to ambulatory surgical centers (despite the fact that they do NOT perform surgery) will not make abortion safer, it will force women to get back-alley abortions because access to the procedure would become virtually impossible. The same anti-choice regulations are being pushed in Texas despite the Texas District of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) vehemently arguing that the bill would not have a positive impact on women's health.
According to staffers in the state legislature, the requirements in the law would force the closure of every clinic in the state of North-Carolina, except one. According to Huffingon Post, the bill would "also place limits on health care coverage for abortion procedures, require clinics to have "transfer agreements" with hospitals, and require doctors to be present when women take RU486, the drug that induces abortions."
Rachel Maddow believes that this "legislative ambush" was designed to maliciously push some extreme anti-choice legislation into law without anyone noticing. Here's her reaction to the news coming in last night in the middle of her show.
The North Carolina Senate voted to advance their surprise bill and will go forward with a final vote Wednesday morning. If it passes, it will make its way to the House. The bill is currently being debated in the Senate. You can watch the live stream below.
Steve Benen from Maddow Blog expressed the frustrating irony of a bill that is concerned with reducing the impact of foreign religious laws while simultaneously reaffirming the religiously motivated ideology guiding health policy.
"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."
The only thing that should guide women's health policy is health. Not religion. Not partisanship. And certainly not misogyny. Someone needs to remind the Republican party, because right now, they are guilty of doing all three.
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UPDATED: The North-Carolina Senate has passed the bill and the House will vote on the bill tonight. If it passes, it won't need Governor's McCrory signature to become law in North-Carolina.