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Senate Bill 20 passed the General Assembly within 48 hours; 12-week ban, other restrictions on abortion now go to the governor

RALEIGH — Today, the North Carolina Senate passed Senate Bill 20, a sweeping bill that will ban abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy in most circumstances and impose an array of other restrictions that will severely limit abortion access before 12 weeks of pregnancy for anyone in need of care in North Carolina. Governor Cooper has already stated he plans to veto the bill.

“Extreme anti-abortion politicians have passed a sweeping, monster abortion ban in 48 hours without any regard to the democratic process or our fundamental human rights, and we are outraged,” said Jenny Black, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “The little debate that we’ve had on this bill has made clear that lawmakers don’t even know what’s in their own legislation. Even so, they rammed through this omnibus ban with complete disregard for the countless people it will harm. We know abortion bans lead to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality and substandard health care. North Carolinians deserve better. This fight is just getting started, and the people of North Carolina need to rise up: we must not allow politicians in Raleigh to take away our right to control what happens to our bodies, our families, and our futures. We must make sure Governor Cooper’s veto stands and prevent this dangerous ban from ever seeing the light of day.”

“This is unprecedented, undemocratic, and pure cowardice,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president & CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “In a matter of days, North Carolina lawmakers have voted to strip their constituents of their rights, all while circumventing the regular procedural order in the Legislature and blocking patients, providers, and medical experts from offering any meaningful input. Make no mistake, this bill goes beyond a 12-week abortion ban: it represents government interference at its worst. It does nothing to make patients more safe, but will instead compound the harms already done in North Carolina by denying people access to essential care and forcing some to carry pregnancies against their will or flee the state if they have the means. As S.B. 20 heads to the governor’s desk and as we gear up for a veto override fight, Planned Parenthood will never back down and never stop fighting for every person’s ability to access abortion care — no matter what.” 

The 46-page bill was presented outside of the standard process — with little-to-no public notice — as a “conference committee report.” This procedural move allowed legislators to bypass the normal committee process, restrict any opportunity to amend the bill, and pass the bill within 48 hours of it being presented to the public.

Most people who need abortion care after 12 weeks of pregnancy will be forced to travel out of state if they have the means, seek care outside of the health care system, or carry a pregnancy against their will. Any abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy must be provided in a hospital, which will result in more expensive health care for the patient.

Senate Bill 20 decreases access to medication abortion by a week, from 11 weeks to 10 due to the requirement that the doctor must confirm the pregnancy is less than 70 days or 10 weeks. The bill also requires a patient accessing medication abortion to come into the clinic for an additional in person visit both before and for the abortion, mandating that a patient receive state-scripted counseling in person at least 72 hours before their appointment.

Senate Bill 20 adds medically unnecessary and onerous requirements on abortion clinics, potentially forcing them to acquire an additional “ambulatory surgical center” license. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic does not have any health center in North Carolina that currently meets all of the requirements of that license, and many facilities will not be able to meet them in the near future. 

There is mounting evidence that abortion bans lead to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. According to new data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, states that have enacted abortion bans this year experienced a 10.5 percent decrease in OBGYN resident applications.

The harmful consequences of abortion bans extend beyond abortion care. Patients in states where abortion is banned are reportedly receiving substandard care for miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and even cancer treatment as providers are forced to seek legal advice before providing care and restrictive laws create uncertainty in the health care system.