With new abortion ban, Republicans will take NC 50 years backward | Opinion

·3 min read
Ethan Hyman/ehyman@newsobserver.com

It’s happening: a 12-week abortion ban is likely to become law soon in North Carolina.

After months of private discussion, Republican leaders announced Tuesday that they have reached a consensus on new abortion restrictions that would ban abortion after the first trimester, with exceptions for rape, incest (up to 20 weeks) and medical emergencies. Ironically, their announcement comes exactly one year after the leak that revealed the U.S. Supreme Court would be overturning Roe v. Wade.

Republicans seem to think their so-called compromise is reasonable because it contains “holistic” measures such as adoption tax credits and funding for contraception. It’s not.

How could it be, when millions of people across the state will no longer have the same rights they once did? How could it be, when people will needlessly suffer without the reproductive health care they deserve?

Many people don’t know they are pregnant until well into the first trimester, sometimes even later. That doesn’t leave much time to confirm the pregnancy with a doctor, weigh your options and make a decision. When you factor in the state’s required 72-hour waiting period and the fact that only nine counties in North Carolina have an abortion clinic, it gets more complicated. These days, it can take weeks to even get an appointment.

You also have to account for the logistical factors, which may include taking time off of work, arranging transportation and saving up enough money for the often-expensive procedure. Besides, fetal abnormalities are typically not even detected until the second trimester. Twelve weeks is an arbitrary number, one that has no basis in science or medicine. It is purely political.

The process of terminating a pregnancy is more complicated than abortion bans can account for. Before the point of viability, it should be a private decision, and it should never be co-opted by lawmakers who think they deserve a say in the matter. It doesn’t matter whether the line is drawn at 13 weeks, six or 20. The effect is the same: it robs people of the ability to make a decision they alone should be able to make.

The ban does provide exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies. Republicans seem to think that softens the blow, like it’s a concession to provide some recourse for people in the worst moments of their lives. In reality, it will only lead to chaos, confusion and suffering. Will people have to jump through hoops to prove they are a victim of rape or incest? Will doctors have to watch their patients suffer until their condition can, beyond a shadow of a doubt, be considered an “emergency”?

With a supermajority now secured in both chambers, Republicans likely have the support they need to override the governor’s veto. Lawmakers said Tuesday that all Republican members have committed to supporting the bill. It’s possible some moderate Democrats could even join them in voting for it.

They should be ashamed, because this is not what North Carolinians want. According to a recent Meredith Poll, a majority of voters do not believe our state’s abortion laws should be stricter than what state law currently allows — they would like to either keep the current 20-week ban or expand access further. That, apparently, doesn’t matter. The decision was made for us, behind closed doors, by politicians who are overwhelmingly male and therefore will be spared the worst of its consequences.

And there will be consequences, for children and parents alike. They will fall heaviest on the least privileged among us, who already struggle from a lack of health care, a lack of child care, poor maternal health outcomes and economic hardship. Health care providers have warned that further restricting abortion in North Carolina is dangerous, and will restrict their ability to provide critical care. Lawmakers didn’t listen. Or, worse, they just didn’t care.

This bill takes us a half-century step backward. North Carolina will be worse off for it.