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New Abortion Law Faces Federal Lawsuit

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are among several groups who filed a federal lawsuit today opposing new restrictions on abortions in North Carolina. The new state law requires women undergo specific counseling, view an ultrasound, and wait 24 hours before having an abortion. The groups argue that violates the free speech and due process rights of health care providers and women seeking abortions. Donna Burkett is Medical Director for Planned Parenthood Health Systems.

Donna Burkett: "This is just a very intrusive law, and it's intruding into a process that's very private between a doctor and a patient, where there's already great mechanisms for individualized, high-quality, informed-consent process already taking place."
The Republican-controlled legislature passed the bill over Governor Perdue's veto. Pat McElraft of Emerald Isle was one of the bill's primary sponsors.

Pat McElraft: "We think we have a foolproof bill here. We looked at it with all legalities and with lots of attorneys. And you know, only the court can tell. You never know. Really all we're trying to do is make sure a woman is informed. We had testimony from so many women out there that had abortions and didn't even know the name of their doctor. So we're hoping that this will improve the doctor-patient relationship with women who are seeking abortions."
But Burkett say it won't.

Burkett: "It actually limits us from being able to specialize our care for a given patient in a way that she presents, and the timing of her presentation and her availability to get to a site that's two counties away or three counties away from where she lives."
McElraft rejects the notion that the bill makes the process more painful for women.

McElraft: "I don't think it's a more painful process. I think the pain comes in when women are not totally informed and when they are going through psychiatric care years down the road after they've had abortions. Many of them have testified before us that have had abortions previously that said, you know, if I had only known, if I had only been able to see the ultrasound."
But Burkett says they already offer women the choice to view the ultrasound. She says the difference is that now women will be forced to see them. And she says the script mandated by the law is biased.

Burkett: "Imagine a rape victim who comes to us with an unwanted pregnancy as a result of that rape. And one of the things we have to say to her is that the father has to make child custody payments by law. You know, just completely inappropriate for that situation."
The law is scheduled to take effect October 26th.  You can read the complaint here.  Read a copy of House Bill 854: Women's Right to Know Act.

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