House Conducts a Second Round of Sneak Attacks on Women’s Health
RALEIGH- The North Carolina House Health and Human Services committee conducted a so-called public hearing today on HB 695, the omnibus abortion restriction bill, that passed the NC Senate in a matter of hours last week in a surprise sneak attack.
This should have been House members’ first opportunity to make amendments to the bill and hear public comments. However, no amendments could be offered because the measure is a concurrence vote with the NC Senate bill. Ultimately no vote was taken on the bill this morning and it was later revealed that HB 695 was never referred to the NC House by the Senate so the committee did not have the authority to take a vote on HB 695, much less make amendments. The Senate fast-tracked the measure to the NC House later in the day after the committee adjourned.
“Today’s so-called hearing was a piece of political theater and just more of the same sneak attack on women’s health,” said Paige Johnson, Vice President of External Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central NC. “Legislators are proving to North Carolinians that their elected officials are not to be trusted. Today was an effort to distract women and make them think that legislators are taking their concerns seriously. In reality they always intended to fast-track the bill to the House Floor.”
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Wos spoke during the hearing and made clear that there are significant problems with HB 695 saying it is ambiguous, vague and unenforceable. She stated that DHHS does not have the capacity to enforce the current rigorous regulations. While Wos was promised by bill proponents that her concerns would be addressed, legislators were procedurally unable to make any changes to the bill.
As the committee met, hundreds of activists wearing pink and purple gathered in the committee room and outside the building to protest HB 695. Dozens of women’s health advocates signed up to speak against the bill in committee but only ten were allowed to do so.
“North Carolina women are watching this bill and the actions of their elected officials and they are demanding to be heard,” said Melissa Reed, Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Health Systems. “They think it is bad enough that legislators are seeking to severely restrict women’s access to safe and legal abortion in North Carolina, but it’s made even worse that business is being conducted in an underhanded way.”
A floor vote on HB 695 is expected at any time in the House now that the Senate Clerk’s office has officially referred it to them.
Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures for women and already one of the most heavily regulated. Planned Parenthood carefully follows all current rigorous safety guidelines. No one cares more about women’s health and safety than Planned Parenthood.
Existing laws and regulations governing abortion services in North Carolina work. This is exactly why providers who do not comply with the existing extensive regulations are shut down.
January 30, 2014