- NC Policy Watch - http://www.ncpolicywatch.com -

House bill would bring NC abortion law in line with U.S. Supreme Court ruling

[1]With all that’s happened politically over the least several months, it’s easy to forget there was a major U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer that reaffirmed the constitutional right to access abortion. The Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt ruling [2] that came out in June of 2016 pushed back strongly against many of the hundreds of restrictions [3] that states have enacted since the 1973 decision that legalized abortion; and in particular the nearly 300 restrictions that have been passed since 2011.

While the Court had held in previous decisions that states could enact some restrictions, the 2016 ruling set the standard that these restrictions must be based on medical evidence (not ideological belief) and that restrictions must improve the health and safety of the patient seeking the abortion. The court also instructed states that they must weigh the benefit of these policies with the potential harm that may come from making abortion more inaccessible. It was a major victory for the cause of reproductive freedom.

The mere fact that the Court issued this ruling, however, doesn’t mean that the hundreds of potentially unconstitutional laws on the books across the country were automatically struck down. Instead, lawmakers and advocates across the country must still introduce and pass laws to repeal these restrictions and/or challenge their legality in court (as is happening in North Carolina right now [4] with the state’s 20-week abortion ban).

In keeping with this imperative, some North Carolina lawmakers are taking action to restore reproductive freedom in the state, by recently introducing a bill entitled “An Act Repealing Laws in Conflict with the US Supreme Court Decision in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt” [5] (“The Whole Women’s Health Act”, for short).

Sadly, North Carolina has a long history [6] of enacting politically-motivated restrictions on abortion that have had nothing to do with medical care and everything to do with restricting access to the procedure; and this bill will not repeal all of them. What this bill does, however, is repeal the most arbitrary restrictions that have been shown to be nothing more than attempts to block patients from accessing abortion and intimidate abortion providers, including:

In addition to repealing these unconstitutional laws, the Whole Women’s Health Act would prevent lawmakers from enacting further arbitrary restrictions, and bring North Carolina in line with the 2016 Supreme Court ruling. Perhaps just as importantly, it would also make sure state law better reflects public opinion in a society in which seven in ten Americans support [9] safe and legal access to abortion for those who make that decision.

It’s time for North Carolina lawmakers to stop their interference in the most personal of health decisions and pass this vital legislation before the federal courts force them to do so.

Tara Romano is the Executive Director of NARAL-Pro Choice North Carolina [10] and President of North Carolina Women United [11].