In a surprise move on Tuesday evening, North Carolina joined the list of states making the national spotlight by introducing sweeping abortion legislation. Following in the footsteps of Texas and Ohio, the North Carolina Senate brought forth legislation that would effectively shut down all but one abortion clinic in the state for failing to meet ambulatory surgery centers.
The omnibus bill, HB695, originally a bill to prohibit the recognition of foreign law (namely Islamic Sharia law), was extended only hours before voting to include several abortion-related bills waiting to be addressed in the General Assembly.
GOP supporters argued that HB695 would improve women’s health by ensuring that abortion clinics are held to higher standards of safety and compliance. Democratic opponents, supported in large numbers by hundreds of protesters in a packed gallery and outside, claimed the bill was an attack on women’s rights.
The bill, which passed the third reading of the NC Senate along party lines 29-12, will be sent back to the House for a final vote on the changes. The House GOP has a clear majority to approve the changes. However, it is unclear if Gov. Pat McCrory, who promised in 2012 not to sign any bills restricting abortion access into law, will veto the bill (Republicans have a large enough majority to override a veto) or let it become law without his signature.
Here are reactions from three millennials in the state of North Carolina to HB695 and the recent work from the North Carolina General Assembly.
1. 22 year-old male from Graham, North Carolina
HB695 and legislation like it exemplify how innovative and persuasive lawmakers on the right of center have become in passing laws that work discriminatory impacts on women and marginalized communities without facing political accountability. The content of the bill is substantively outrageous, forcing a majority of North Carolina’s compliant abortions clinics to close their doors. But, the manner in which this and other bill in the session have been debated and framed is even more discouraging. Merely providing opposition the opportunity to speak is not the form of democratic governance the Founding Fathers could have envisioned. The voices of hundreds of North Carolinians are being ignored and downplayed as mere frustration with results of the 2008 election. From attacking the Racial Justice Act and slashing unemployment benefits to working this serious restriction on the pragmatics of access for North Carolina’s women, the N.C. General Assembly has single-handedly put the Tar Heel state on the map, and not for good reasons.
2. 22-year-old male from Hillsborough, North Carolina
Republicans promised to change the way business was handled in Raleigh by making the legislature more transparent. The actions in the Senate proved that words do not always translate into action. The bill passed by legislative Republicans was done in the most opaque way in an effort to stifle women's rights. Sixty-one percent of Americans support a woman's right to choose, and instead there are those more interested in carrying out the culture wars than carrying out sound policy and conducting vital state business, such as passing a state budget (which North Carolina does not have due to legislative squabbling).
3. 21-year-old male from Asheville, North Carolina
In a rushed vote, the North Carolina Senate passed the Family, Faith, and Freedom Protection Act (HB695) this morning, a bill full of Islamophobia and sexism. The bill includes clear references to sharia law, touted by some conservatives as a creeping heinous force in our country, and is a jab at Muslims in North Carolina and across the country. Additionally, late in the bill’s formation, Senate Republicans added several harsh restrictions on the rights of women to access adequate prenatal health care. The rationale behind supporting the bill is one of anti-choice advocates more broadly — we must protect women’s health and safety. But let’s be clear: HB695 is not about women’s health, safety, or rights. HB695 is about power and control. The bill, largely supported by rich, white males elected from rural districts in North Carolina, will take power out of the hands of women, especially low-income women, and place it in the hands of lawmakers. For a party that seems to care about limiting the size of government, they are oddly concerned about unnecessary clinic regulations. As several senators noted, the violations across the state can be remedied by enforcement of current laws. We must reject deceitful arguments from GOP lawmakers and the anti-choice lobby that they care about women. If you care about women, let them choose what to do with their bodies. It’s that simple.
Opposition to the Republican governor, House, and Senate continue to grow in North Carolina as thousands of protesters voiced displeasure in their ninth consecutive “Moral Monday” protest this week. Will the NCGA’s actions this week cause a spark for major protests at the 10th “Moral Monday” scheduled for July 8 at the General Assembly in Raleigh? Let's hope so.