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Women's Health Groups: Who's Behind the Wheel of "Motorcycle Abortion Law"?

Photo: Women protest "Motorcycle Abortion Bill". Courtesy: Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina
Photo: Women protest "Motorcycle Abortion Bill". Courtesy: Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina
August 22, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. – Almost two months since they were passed, little is known about how new restrictions will impact a woman's ability to get a safe and legal abortion in North Carolina.

The changes were inserted into a motorcycle safety bill in the final days of the legislative session – which earned it the name the Motorcycle Abortion Bill.

Under the law, it's now up to state health officials to formulate what standards abortion clinics must meet to remain open.

Paige Johnson, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, is concerned about the lack of transparency in the decision process.

"We haven't heard anything about what the process is going to involve,” she says. “And what's really important is that there be an opportunity for experts in the field to weigh in, to be part of the process."

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) – the agency charged with crafting the regulations – says the process for amending the abortion clinic rules has not begun, and there's no information available at this time.

Supporters of the regulation changes say abortion clinics should be regulated to similar standards as outpatient surgical centers.

Critics say that could effectively close the 16 abortion clinics in the state.

Johnson and others are concerned that DHHS will create regulations that will be impractical and impossible for most abortion clinics in the state to adhere to.

She says it's important to remember concern over the new legislation crosses party lines.

"You don't have to identify as pro-choice,” she adds. “In fact, many people identify as pro-life but still want to make sure that safe and legal abortion is available to a woman if and when she needs it."

Senate Bill 353 also eliminated insurance coverage for abortions for city and county employees, as well as from the state's federal health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC