Abortion Laws North Carolina Go Into Effect This Weekend
North Carolina abortion laws take effect this weekend with limited exceptions for pregnancies affected by rape or incest up to 20 weeks and for pregnancies with life-limiting fetal anomalies up to 24 weeks. Furthermore, they mandate a 72-hour waiting period before prescribing abortion-inducing drugs to physicians.
These new rules entail counseling sessions, multiple appointments, and examinations – potentially costing patients in terms of travel costs or hotel stays.
Requirements for Counseling
On Saturday, New Hampshire will implement its new abortion law with immediate effect, significantly restricting women’s access to this procedure. It bans most abortions after 12 weeks except in cases of rape or incest or “life-limiting fetal anomalies” through 24 weeks; partial-birth abortions and “eugenic abortions,” performed because of an embryo’s presumed race or sex or likelihood for having disabilities such as Down syndrome are also forbidden by this legislation.
The law mandates patients receive state-directed counseling designed to dissuade women from having abortions, in person and at two appointments 72 hours apart. Abortion-rights supporters argue that this requirement for biased counseling is unnecessarily burdensome and will limit access to abortion for poor women or those living far from clinics.
The law also mandates additional procedures before prescribing or administering abortion-inducing drugs and requires doctors to complete various in-person steps before prescribing or helping them. Furthermore, there is a specific form used by physicians to document their procedures and reporting requirements imposed upon them. These provisions ensure that only licensed physicians perform abortions regardless of moral or religious objections from medical professionals or patients.
Laws will restrict health insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act or on state healthcare exchanges from covering abortion services except in particular instances, including state and local government employees’ insurance plans. Private insurers may offer abortion coverage within their plans, but this restriction prevents them from advertising it publicly.
This law will have a dramatic impact on college students attending universities far from Planned Parenthood clinics – there is only one in Greensboro, 35 minutes away from Elon University – especially those without access to cars; those seeking abortion may have more difficulty seeking one due to this barrier, potentially impacting how often young women seek them. Furthermore, this bill prevents young women from using telemedicine to receive medication abortions which could otherwise make accessing abortion more convenient.
Requirements for Doctors
The new abortion laws in Indiana impose stringent requirements on physicians. For example, they stipulate that those prescribing or administering abortion-inducing drugs must obtain hospital admitting privileges and perform an in-person exam of women requesting abortion services. Furthermore, physicians must inform patients of their rights and the potential risks involved with an abortion procedure, and they cannot object on moral or religious grounds to performing abortions.
This bill prohibits abortions after 12 weeks gestation, except in cases of rape or incest up to 20 weeks and fatal fetal anomalies up to 24 weeks gestation. Furthermore, physicians may no longer perform abortions outside a licensed hospital, ambulatory surgical center, or clinic; again, licensing requirements will likely be more stringent for surgical abortion clinics than for OB-GYNs.
Proponents of abortion restrictions assert that these laws will help protect women. According to them, abortion can be risky and result in life-threatening complications, including infections and blood loss; abortion may cause psychological trauma for some women.
Opponents of this legislation contend that it will restrict women’s healthcare options. They assert that the requirement to obtain a referral from their general practitioner prevents some from seeking an abortion and believe it will lead to a shortage of OB-GYNs.
Physicians opposed to the new laws have held weekly protests outside the legislative building on “White Coat Wednesdays” this year. Additionally, they signed a letter asking lawmakers not to interfere in patient medical care, and some have even resigned their licenses in California.
Doctors have also raised objections to the legality of North Carolina’s 12-week standard and other aspects of the legislation. One lawsuit brought forward by Planned Parenthood asserts that this could result in a shortage of OB-GYNs in North Carolina; additionally, this will make abortion access harder for low-income women living in rural areas, increase waiting time, and force women to travel farther distances for procedures.
Requirements for Patients
Though a federal judge has blocked part of the new abortion law requiring practitioners to show and describe ultrasound images to patients in detail, critics still believe it will have an effect. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic filed a lawsuit alleging that this law will “absolutely harm patients.”
Advocates fear the new law will force doctors to reveal information they might otherwise withhold from patients, such as any history of rape or incest, that could put off women who feel discriminated against from seeking an abortion. Furthermore, 72-hour in-person advance consultation requirements will replace current state requirements that can only be initiated over the phone.
An old North Carolina law mandating ultrasounds before abortion was struck down by a federal appeals court due to being an example of forced speech, violating the First Amendment, and violating women’s privacy rights. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that ruling; however, this new law will make abortion even harder as women must travel further and spend longer seeking counseling that could violate their privacy rights.
PolitiFact polled various experts who agreed with PolitiFact’s assessment that this bill will make it harder for physicians to protect the privacy of their clients as it requires them to verify if patients seeking abortions do so for discriminatory motives – or face their careers are at stake if they fail to do so.
Under the law, practitioners will also be required to use written informed consent forms instead of oral communications for informed decision-making, providing specific lists such as risks associated with surgical versus medical abortions and signing and initialing the written form themselves to attest they provided these details to their patients.
Under the new laws, doctors will also need to provide patients with contact details of local law enforcement agencies in case of an incident related to abortion and establish licensing requirements for surgical clinics. Planned Parenthood has indicated that none of its clinics meet these new criteria; consequently, it has begun assisting women seeking abortions out of state.
Requirements for Clinics
North Carolina abortion clinics must fulfill specific new regulations, including having physicians consult with patients 72 hours before an abortion is performed and offering counseling sessions to ensure women seeking abortions are fully informed and provide informed consent for the procedure.
The law will make it illegal to mail abortion-inducing drugs like Mifepristone by mail, and anyone caught violating this will face up to $250,000. Furthermore, women traveling out-of-state for a medical abortion will no longer be permitted, and abortion clinics must adhere to licensing rules for ambulatory surgical centers – raising costs further and perhaps leading to some having to close.
Proponents of the law claim it will protect patients. But critics fear it could discriminate and discourage patients from having abortions. For example, the bill prohibits abortions on grounds such as race or Down syndrome in an unborn fetus and requires practitioners to verify whether a patient’s motives are not discriminatory.
Abortion-rights advocates encourage lawmakers to override Governor Cooper’s veto of HB 217, as its restrictions will restrict access for poor patients and those coming in from out-of-state. Furthermore, advocates worry that this law may force abortion-inducing pills out of North Carolina, leaving women who require them without choices available to them.
Under the new laws, patients must travel twice weekly for abortion procedures at clinics, making it more challenging for some women, particularly those living in rural areas, to access abortion. Clinics have prepared themselves by hiring more staff and increasing patient lists before these changes.
Doctors and abortion clinic volunteers have expressed alarm that new laws limiting access to abortion services could restrict patients’ right to choose health care. Furthermore, one doctor told WRAL she might leave the state if these new laws take effect.