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Proposal Would Revamp Rules For NC's 14 Abortion Clinics

Illustration: Cadeceus
Flickr user takomabibelot

North Carolina health officials have proposed updating regulations governing clinics that provide abortions, in compliance with a 2013 law that requires them to be treated like outpatient surgery centers.

The plan was drafted by the state Department of Health and Human Services with input from medical professionals, including obstetricians and the owner of a clinic that provides abortion services in Charlotte, according to the Catholic News Herald.

Supporters of the law say it upgrades safeguards for women's health, while critics say it's aimed at closing clinics. Health officials say the rules don't curtail the work of any of the state's 14 existing clinics.

"The proposed rules meet constitutional requirements and comply with [the new law] by improving patient safety and privacy while preserving access to services," Drexdal Pratt, director of the Division of Health Service Regulation, said in a statement.

The proposed regulations include requiring a registered nurse to oversee an organized nursing staff and for a physician to be on a committee overseeing the clinic. Here's the full plan, of the plans, which would be made on the North Carolina Register, and here are highlights from the Associated Press:

While abortion clinics have previously been inspected every three to five years, the proposed rules require annual inspections and more as the division "may deem necessary as a condition of holding such license." The agency has said current clinic regulations have been in place since the mid-1990s. The proposed regulations also require an organized nursing staff at the clinic led by a registered nurse and on-site automated external defibrillator. Clinics must enter an agreement with a hospital that would receive patients in need of emergency care, but they would remain in compliance with the rules if they can document efforts but are unsuccessful to secure an agreement. Mandating transfer agreements without such exceptions in other states have been criticized as a technique to close clinics.

The public has until January 30 to comment in writing on the proposed rules, and a public comment hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 19, at Room 104, 801 Biggs Drive in Raleigh. State lawmakers are expected to consider the proposal during the 2015 legislative session.

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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