North Carolina Abortion Bill: Just the Latest State to Shirk Democracy

If you had any doubt that we are in an outright war to protect the constitutional right to an abortion, this last week has decisively disrupted that pipe dream. From Texas to Ohio and now North Carolina, this has been a dizzying week in the fight to keep abortion safe and legal. And make no mistake, it is designed to be dizzying. For a party that loves to wax poetic about "freedom" and the "democratic process," state Republican legislators are proving that they care about neither in the war they are waging on women and women’s human rights.

As Texas State Senator Wendy Davis took to the Senate floor last Tuesday to filibuster the omnibus anti-abortion bill SB5, it became more and more apparent that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and the Senate GOP were trying to undermine her filibuster at every turn. Calling “points of order” on everything from talking about Planned Parenthood to putting on a back brace, the Senate GOP was determined to end her filibuster and ram this unpopular, unconstitutional, and unwanted bill through. When reproductive rights supporters carried the filibuster through the last 15 minutes of the special session with their cries of outrage, the time stamp mysteriously changed to reflect that SB5 had been passed before midnight, when it clearly had not. This is a felony. Ultimately, dual copies showing the change had been made undermined this blatant attempt at cheating and the bill was declared dead. 

Count one for cheating.

Never one to apologize or be outdone, Governor Rick Perry called a second special session the very next day to pass SB5. Never mind that 63% of Texans think the state already has enough abortion restrictions, or that 80% of Texans don’t want SB5 dealt with in a special session. Apparently unhappy about the scores of reproductive rights protesters, Governor Perry proudly proclaimed that “the louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done,” a comment that could easily be construed as using the vernacular of sexual assault. It doesn’t matter to Governor Perry that protesting is a constitutionally-protected right. His attempt to legislate women’s bodies and drive abortion underground will not be derailed by a little thing like the Constitution. And just last night, the House Republicans refused to hear testimony from over 1,000 citizens on this bill, essentially shutting down the Democratic process to ram through this bill.

Count one for violating the Constitution and the public will.

Then we have Ohio, a battleground state, no less, whose governor just signed one of the most restrictive and draconian anti-abortion bills in the country. Continuing the anti-choice trend of hiding their unconstitutional bills from the public, Ohio Republicans, with help from their anti-choice Republican Governor John Kasich, snuck a “surprise, brand-new, last-minute, adopted-in-secret abortion law,” as Rachel Maddow called it, into the Ohio state budget. This bill simultaneously defunded Planned Parenthood, mandated forced ultrasounds on anyone seeking abortions (whether they want it or not), and essentially forced several abortion clinics in Ohio to close their doors. And all of this was shoved into a budget bill at the last minute, hidden from the public.

Count one for lack of transparency.

Last night, while the eyes of the abortion rights community was once again on Texas as it began House debate on their omnibus anti-abortion bill, North Carolina Republican Senators decided to join the misogynist fray and secretly include an omnibus anti-abortion bill of their own, H695, in a bill outlawing Sharia Law. Yes, you read that right. They forced unconstitutional legislation into a bill to address a problem that doesn’t exist in America. This bill includes a TRAP law that would required abortion clinics to “meet license standards similar to those of ambulatory surgical centers,” could force every single abortion clinic in the state to close, and would require doctors to be present when women take abortion-inducing drugs, a move tantamount to forcing doctors to be present whenever a patient takes Viagra. These laws are unconstitutional, as they clearly violate the Supreme Court’s “undue burden” standard that explicitly states that no restriction on abortion can be made that place an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion. And all of this happened quietly and in secret, while everyone was paying attention to Texas. 

Count another one for violating the Constitution and lack of transparency.

And here’s the question I cannot escape: if these abortion restrictions reflect the public will, why are anti-choice legislators doing everything in their power to keep them a secret? Why shirk the democratic process? Why not let the voices of the people be heard? Why cheat and lie?

It’s simple, really. Anti-choice legislators and activists know that these bills don’t reflect the public will. The American public has decisively decided that they support abortion rights, with 70% of Americans declaring that they believe Roe V. Wade should remain the law of the land. If you want to violate women’s human rights, you’re going to incur outrage. So what better way to avoid that outrage than by sneaking these bills past an unsuspecting public? 

It is certain that these anti-choice Republican legislators have no real interest in democracy, freedom, or personal liberty when it comes to women’s rights. While facing Texas, Ohio, and now North Carolina, it has become undeniable that we are facing a virulent, fanatical group, made up mostly of older, white men, who are intent on ensuring that women are not autonomous human beings, but rather, permanent baby-making incubators. They know these bills are unconstitutional. They know that the public is against them. And they know that through gerrymandering and the Tea Party election of 2010, that they have the power and numbers to ram them through.

And they will not stop until we stop them.

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Lauren Rankin

Lauren is a feminist writer and activist, and is a current graduate student in Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. Sour jelly beans are her kryptonite.

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