Johnson: Anti-choice bills out of step with voters

May. 03, 2013 @ 11:39 AM

The recent U.S. Supreme Court hearings regarding the freedom to marry make clear how desperately outdated North Carolina’s legislature was last year to put Amendment One on the ballot.

Of course, it won and North Carolina effectively wrote discrimination into its constitution for a while, despite the fact only just over a third of eligible voters turned up at the polls. A majority of a fraction of eligible voters is hardly an overwhelming victory, much less an indication of how North Carolinians really feel about marriage equality.

Instead, what ballot measures like Amendment One and the recent ban on safe and legal abortion approved by North Dakota’s legislature and Governor show is how willing some politicians are to push through an extreme agenda totally out of step with the way most people in their state feel about deeply personal issues.

In fact, nowhere was this more evident than in North Carolina last year. Whether it was banning Planned Parenthood from receiving state funding to provide lifesaving cancer screening, annual exams, birth control, STD prevention and detection or imposing a forced ultrasound viewing on every woman seeking to end a pregnancy regardless of the circumstances, North Carolina’s legislature made clear that they would rather be mired in politically divisive issues than address the real concerns of North Carolinians. They also made clear that women’s health was target Number One.

It would be a mistake for them to do so again.

Most North Carolinians — like most Americans — understand and respect a woman’s constitutional right to make deeply personal and often complex health care decisions without government interference. They understand that raising a child, choosing adoption or ending a pregnancy are some of the most profound experiences a woman and her family will ever know.

Gov. Pat McCrory would seem to agree. While running for office last fall, he said he didn’t support more restrictions on safe and legal abortion in our state. It’s time for him to keep his campaign promise and tell legislators that he won’t stand by while they take aim at women’s health once again. Unfortunately, thus far, the governor seems not to have communicated his common-sense position to lawmakers.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are pushing forward full-steam ahead with an anti-reproductive freedom agenda.

Last week a House Committee approved a dangerous anti-reproductive freedom bill on the non-existent problem of “sex selection abortions.” The bill would require doctors to attempt to read the minds of their patients and turn care providers into investigators and patients into suspects. It is offensive, unconstitutional and, as always with such proposals, an assault first and foremost on poor women. 

This offensive House bill comes on the heels of a Senate proposal based on a Mississippi law that has placed that state’s last remaining abortion provider on the verge of closure. The bill would require doctors providing abortion services to have “admitting privileges” at a local hospital. Such a requirement does nothing to enhance patient safety.

The fact of the matter is that today, abortion is an extremely safe procedure with low risk of complications and is provided by physicians with rigorous patient safety guidelines in place. Requiring physicians to jump through hurdles created by politicians, on the other hand, has nothing to do with patient safety, serving only to make it harder for doctors to care for women.

Unfortunately, many lawmakers don’t seem to be concerned about women having access to doctors or respecting the privacy of that relationship. When interviewed by local media and asked about the impact of his legislation on women’s health providers, the sponsor of the Senate measure said, “I guess I don’t know exactly how it will affect clinics across the state.”

It shows.

Hopefully, McCrory, true to his campaign promise, will care more about women’s access to safe and legal health care than pushing an extreme political agenda. Let’s hope so. It’s certainly what the majority of women who voted him into office expected.

Paige Johnson is vice president of external & governmental affairs at Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.