At the 11th hour, a group of Republican state senators from North Carolina tacked an ambitious set of anti-abortion restrictions onto a bill designed to ban Sharia Law in the state.
Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice advocates said they had no idea that the surprise anti-abortion measure was coming. But of course, the religious right groups were informed that the Sharia bill would really be an anti-abortion bill.
The local media is calling the anti-abortion proposal “sweeping.”
Guess who else believes in sweeping anti-abortion measures?
“I believe that the value of life is the same whether this embryo is the result of fornication with relatives or non-relatives or valid marriage. In Sharia, life has the same value in all cases.” — Sheikh M. A. Al-Salami, Third Symposium on Medical Jurisprudence
The North Carolina legislature recently passed a measure requiring 7th and 8th grade teachers to incorporate into their lessons unsubstantiated pseudo-science claiming that abortion increases the risk of miscarriage later in life. And now, the new North Carolina restrictions would make it nearly impossible to perform abortions in the state.
WRAL has a rundown of the provisions (emphasis added):
CONSCIENCE PROTECTION: The bill would allow any health care provider, not just doctors and nurses, to opt out of providing abortion-related services.
ABORTION FUNDING LIMITS: The bill would prohibit health plans offered on the federal health care exchanges from offering abortion coverage. It would also prohibit state funds from being used for abortions, except to save the life of the mother in case of rape or incest. It would also prohibits city and county health plans from offering abortion coverage more extensive than the coverage offered to state employees. The state health plan does not cover abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.
SEX SELECTIVE ABORTIONS: The measure prohibits doctors from performing an abortion if they know the woman seeking it is doing so because of the gender of the baby.
“This is something we see happening across the country,” Schaffer said.
But [Melissa] Reed said that was not the case. Doctors cannot determine the sex of a baby until five months of pregnancy without expensive tests she said. While sex-selection abortions are practiced in other parts of the world, they are not common in the U.S., Reed said. The effect the bill, she insisted, would be to create an adversarial relationship between doctors, would could be sued under the measure, and patients. Reed said it could also prompt some doctors to engage in racial profiling against women who are from parts of the world where sex selection abortions are practiced.
DOCTORS: Doctors will be required to remain in the room for the entire abortion procedure, whether surgical or medical / chemical.
“The information that I’ve seen is that they (medical abortions) are even more dangerous than surgical procedures,” said Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, a primary sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.
Roughly half the abortions performed in the state are medical abortions.
“That’s not true, they’re extremely safe,” Reed said.
The practical effect of this rule will be to limit the number of abortions any one doctor could provide.
A medical abortion is performed by a woman taking one pill, waiting two days, an then taking a second pill that contracts the uterus. It’s unclear for how much of that process the physician would have to be present.
TRANSFER AGREEMENTS: The measure would require abortion clinics to have “transfer agreements” with local hospitals. Reed said the practical effect of that measure would be to limit how many clinics could operate, since some hospitals would refuse to engage in such agreements. The measure is meant to be similar, but not exactly the same, as provisions in other states that require doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Hospitals, Reed said, would have little incentive to sign such agreements.
LICENSING: The measure would require abortions clinics to go through a licensing process similar outpatient surgical clinics.
Daniel insisted this provision merely “ensured we don’t have two different state standards” for outpatient clinics.
“These are really safety procedures,” Daniel said.
However, Reed said other procedures with higher risk than abortion, such as oral surgery or colonoscopies, don’t fall under such provisions.
“They’re really putting a barrier in the way to access,” Reed said. It will make clinics more expensive to operate. Currently, according to legislative staff, there is only one abortion clinic in the state that meets the outpatient surgical standards. Reed said she didn’t know where that clinic was. She said Planned Parenthood’s four North Carolina clinics did not meet the standard.”
When asked about the timing of the amendment and rushed preliminary vote (with only 41 out of 60 senators even present for the vote itself), Senate Judiciary Chairman Buck Newton (R-Wilson) offered this shoulder-shrug explanation:
It just took a while for there to be a consensus of support for it within our caucus… Sometimes these things come together at the last minute.
You heard him, folks.
The same North Carolina GOP that has advocated poll-taxing student voters, establishing a state religion, drug testing welfare recipients, banning the electric car and expanding fracking in this term alone – the same North Carolina GOP that rejected the Medicaid expansion, gerrymandered the Wake County schoolboard back to segregation, and led the charge for their state to become the first ever to eliminate unemployment benefits – somehow just got their sh*t together when it came to effectively eliminating abortion access in the Tar Hell state.
Setting aside for a moment that there are probably more Linux users in North Carolina than people who are actively seeking to implement Sharia Law, tacking fundamentalist religious extremism onto a bill purporting to ban religious fundamentalism does come with a twinge of sad irony.
In a legislative session defined by crazy, superfluous and downright mean-spirited policy, North Carolina Republicans are now fast-tracking a bill that would demonize a religious group with an ethnic-sounding legal framework on the one hand, while wholeheartedly adopting its teachings on the other.
So the problem Republicans have with Sharia law isn’t the law itself, it’s the funny hats.
Someone call Wendy Davis.