Republican lawmakers in Raleigh spring an anti-abortion surprise

The News & Observer and WRAL News are reporting that the NC Senate has approved sweeping legislation to restrict abortions by tacking a variety of measures on a bill originally written to address the use of Islamic law in family courts.

The omnibus abortion law would reportedly:

• Require abortion clinics to meet licensure standards for ambulatory surgical centers, which is currently the case for only one clinic in the state;
• Prohibit plans under the federal health-care exchange from covering abortions;
• Require doctors to remain in the room for the duration of the procedure;
• Require abortion clinics to operate under "transfer agreements" with area hospitals;
• Prohibit abortions if the doctor knows the mother is seeking it because of the gender of the baby; and
• Allow an healthcare provider, not just a doctor or nurse, to opt out of providing abortions under a conscience clause.

The N&O and WRAL report that a final vote on the bill is expected in the Senate tomorrow and then in the House before the General Assembly breaks for the July 4 holiday.

Reaction from the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and NARAL Pro-Choice NC was swift.

"This attempted sneak attack on women's reproductive rights is absolutely shameful," said Sarah Preston, policy director for ACLU NC. "Issues as vital and personal as access to comprehensive healthcare and doctor-patient relationships deserve to be debated in an open, public process — not hastily pushed through without notice and under the cover of night during a holiday week. These loathsome restrictions and the deceitful method through which the Senate tried to pass them are an obvious effort to not simply prevent women in North Carolina from having comprehensive access to much-needed healthcare, but to not even given them an effort to weigh in on legislation that will have wide-ranging impacts on women and doctors across the state."

NARAL Pro-Choice NC Executive Director Suzanne Buckley said, "North Carolina's anti-choice lawmakers are taking their cues from underhanded attacks on women's reproductive rights in Texas and Ohio. In the final minutes of marking up an unrelated piece of legislation, the Senate Judiciary committee swiftly tacked on every anti-choice piece of legislation introduced since January to this bill and sent the bill to the floor with no warning in a rare evening session."

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