Dirty Tricks in the War on Women: From Texas to North Carolina

By now, we’re all aware of what happened with Senate Bill 5 (now Senate Bill 2) in Texas: conservative politicians brought a wide-sweeping TRAP bill to the floor a day before the end of a special legislative session. Last night, North Carolina used a page out of the playbook of the Lone Star state.

House Bill 695, which started as an anti-Sharia law that prohibited foreign laws from being considered in family law and custody cases, came before the Senate Tuesday at 5:30 pm on the last day of the legislative session with a last-minute, surprise, anti-choice amendment tacked on. (As Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said of the North Carolina General Assembly, “They’re trying to pull a Texas.”) This new amendment combines every anti-abortion bill brought before the legislature this year.

The now aptly-named “Family, Faith, and Freedom Protection Act of 2013” does all of the following:

  • Creates a conscience clause that allows ANY healthcare provider to refuse to provide abortion-related services.
  • Would opt-out of offering abortion coverage under the state health insurance exchange created to comply with Obamacare.
  • Ban abortions that are believed to be sex-selective.
  • Require a doctor to remain in the room for the entirety of an abortion procedure, even medication abortions.
  • Require abortion providers to have transfer agreements with local area hospitals.
  • Require all abortion clinics to meet the same standards of outpatient surgical centers.
  • Release the name of the doctor performing the abortion to patients 24 hours before a scheduled procedure.

If the bill passes, it will close all but one if the abortion clinics in the state of North Carolina.
You can stream the Senate’s debate on the bill now.

We have seen an onslaught of underhanded ways to limit abortion access, from trying to create a system so bureaucratic that clinics cannot survive to hiding policy restrictions in state budgets to reducing funding so that clinics can no longer provide necessary services to stay open. But Ohio, Texas, and North Carolina’s anti-choice lawmakers have created a new tactic in the War on Women: in an attempt to skirt around public and legislative opposition, they’ve started to introduce controversial legislation without enough time for adequate response. Like we saw in Texas, some times this takes the legislature by surprise. But North Carolina took it a step further – not even providing enough time for a debate or filibuster on the amendment and leaving activists less than 12 hours to plan any kind of response.

This isn’t the first or last time lawmakers have tried to use tricks to pass legislation. What started as a new kind of law requiring specific regulations of abortion clinics in Virginia quickly spread to 27 other states [PDF] having their own versions of TRAP laws. Another law banning abortion at 20 weeks gestation, in violation of Roe v. Wade and ruled unconstitutional by a federal court, has been adopted by 8 states and been passed by the House of Representatives. In Texas, state Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) filibustered SB 5 / SB 2 until the session ended, and despite attempts to stop Davis by citing procedural codes and regulations, her efforts, in conjunction with massive protests against the bill in the Capitol, caused the vote to finish after the session ended.  The game, however, doesn’t end there: Governor Rick Perry (R) has since decided to call a second special legislative in an attempt to still pass the bill.

Though many states have already concluded their 2012-2013 legislative session, it’s only a matter of time before conservative state legislatures hold out on even more extreme legislation until it’s down to the wire.

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