Measure On Post-Abortion Care Of Child Advances In NC Senate
North Carolina legislators re-entered the highly charged fight over abortion on Wednesday, as Senate Republicans advanced a bill requiring physicians and nurses to care for children born alive after the procedure.
The measure, based on the premise that doctors could allow newborns to die following late-term abortions, builds on recent pushbacks by activists opposed to abortion-rights efforts in other states. Members of the judiciary committee that approved it clashed over whether the bill was necessary to protect survivors of abortion, or simply an anti-abortion strategy clothed in misinformation.
The bill states a health care practitioner could face a felony — punishable by at least three years of prison on a first offense — and a large fine if the person fails to provide care to the child, or if someone fails to report that failure. The mother could not be charged, but she could sue over that lack of care. The state's murder statutes also would be expanded to apply to an "intentional, overt act" after a child is born alive.
Bill sponsor Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Forsyth County Republican, mentioned a recent New York law that permits abortions of a viable fetus after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the mother's life is in danger. She also referred to comments made earlier this year by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in favor of legislation that would have eased restrictions on late-term abortions.
Not mentioned during the debate: a federal judge this month declared unconstitutional a North Carolina law banning women from having abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy except in an urgent medical emergency. North Carolina Republicans have passed abortion restrictions this decade, including one that extended the waiting period for the procedure to 72 hours.
"There's been a political war raging for 50 years plus over abortion. This should not be another battle," Krawiec said. "Every human being should agree that an infant who is born alive should receive medical care, regardless of whatever previous decisions have been made."
Democrats on the committee blasted the proposal, saying the bill is unnecessary and the incidence of such live births after abortion extremely low.
They said state medical licensing boards already discipline those who fail to offer care. The bill interferes in the relationship between a woman and her doctor when the woman's life is at risk, said Sen. Terry Van Duyn, a Buncombe County Democrat.
"We are talking about criminalizing doctors and demonizing women for decisions that they may make and we trust them to make at really horrible times," Van Duyn said. An announced candidate for lieutenant governor in 2020, Van Duyn called the bill a "political stunt" designed by anti-abortion groups to keep building a case to overturn the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
"This is about painting an image in people's brains that is false and that is not based on science and not based on medicine," Van Duyn said.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, a Randolph County Republican, criticized Van Duyn: "You call this bill a stunt," he said. "It was you that was the stunt, not this bill."
Anti-abortion activists filled the committee room. They read written testimonies from people not in attendance about an aborted live baby left to die in a hospital or how a now-adult survived an abortion attempt.
The North Carolina Values Coalition, which supports the bill, said five states have reported at least 25 children were born alive during attempted abortions in 2017. North Carolina keeps no such statistics, the coalition said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports over 140 infant deaths involved induced terminations nationwide from 2003 to 2014.
A representative for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic outside the committee room said the group had no comment on the measure. Lillian's List, a group committed to electing women who support abortion rights, called the GOP effort "an attempt to legislate a practice that doesn't exist, filling it with meaningless anti-choice buzzwords to incite division, fear, and shame."
An identical bill was scheduled for House committee debate on Thursday. Any approved legislation would go to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.