ICYMI: New York Times examines McCrory law stockpiling ultrasounds

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Monday January 10, 2015

Contact:  Ford Porter

FordPorter@ncdp.org

 

ICYMI: New York Times examines McCrory law stockpiling ultrasounds

Law on Ultrasounds Reignites Abortion Battle in North Carolina
The New York Times

By Richard Fausset

1/10/16

 

RALEIGH, N.C. — A state law requiring that doctors who perform an abortion after the 16th week of pregnancy supply an ultrasound to state officials has sparked a new and bitter front in the war over abortion here, with stakes that are both personal and political.

Supporters say the purpose of the law is to verify that doctors and clinics are complying with state law, which outlaws abortions after 20 weeks but with an exception made for medical emergencies. Critics say the purpose is to intimidate and provide hurdles to women and doctors. The ultrasound provision, already a requirement in Louisiana and Oklahoma, is part of the continuing pushback against abortion in Republican-controlled states. In highly polarized North Carolina, it has raised the temperature of the abortion debate, which has been used to motivate conservative and liberal voters alike.

The law requires doctors who perform an abortion after the 16th week of pregnancy to send the State Department of Health and Human Services the method used to determine the “probable gestational age” of the fetus, the measurements used to support the assertion and, most controversially, an ultrasound showing the measurements. The provisions took effect Jan. 1.

Tami L. Fitzgerald, a prominent anti-abortion activist who consulted with the bill’s sponsors in the Republican-controlled legislature, said she expected that the health department would use the ultrasounds to determine whether facilities were performing unauthorized abortions after 20 weeks.

“It should also act as a deterrent to the doctors themselves from lying about gestational age,” said Ms. Fitzgerald, the executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition. “The state has made a public policy decision that babies after 20 weeks have a right to live. So this law is about protecting the rights of those unborn babies.”

Melissa L. Reed, the vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which operates clinics in four states, said state inspectors already had the ability to go to abortion clinics to review medical charts. She said she believed that the purpose of the new law was to intimidate doctors, particularly, she said, because the determination of fetal age is “not an exact science.” Ms. Reed also accused lawmakers of trying to intimidate women by requiring that “the most intimate piece of a woman’s medical record” be shared with a government agency.

Aside from doctors and clinic owners, the stakes may be highest for Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican. His decision to sign the bill last year should bolster his conservative bona fides as he pursues what is expected to be a tough fight for a second term this year. But the anger among liberals is likely to be harnessed by a Democratic Party eager to unseat him, and exploited by the eventual Democratic presidential nominee in one of the few Southern states that the party is perceived as having a chance of winning in November. The messaging has already begun: Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign recently released a statement calling the law “outrageous.”

“It’s shameful that Governor McCrory has decided to disregard the sanctity of a woman’s relationship with her doctor by allowing this new law to go into effect requiring government review of women’s personal medical information,” said Mini Timmaraju, Ms. Clinton’s director of women’s outreach.

The law, which was approved in June, also extends the mandated waiting period for women seeking an abortion to 72 hours from 24. That is the longest waiting period in the nation, and one that exists in four other states, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute.

Also under the law, doctors performing abortions after 20 weeks must send the health department the “findings and analysis” that were used to determine that a medical emergency existed.

Louisiana enacted its requirement to file ultrasounds with the state health department in 2012, and Oklahoma in 2013, said Elizabeth Nash, a Guttmacher policy analyst. The North Carolina law states the documents will not be considered public records, and that the confidentiality of the doctor and patient will be “protected,” with the doctor responsible for leaving off the patient’s identifying information.

In an email on Thursday, a health department spokeswoman, Alexandra Lefebvre, said that the information “will be reviewed by a board-certified obstetrician within the department to monitor for compliance with the law.”

..”Supporters say the purpose of the law is to verify that doctors and clinics are complying with state law, which outlaws abortions after…

In October, two Democratic lawmakers, Representative Susan Fisher and Senator Terry Van Duyn, sent Mr. McCrory a letter criticizing the bill and noting numerous recent data breaches at the health department.

Liberal activists, who have long had Mr. McCrory in their sights, appear eager to use his support of the bill to portray him as out of touch in one of the most moderate of Southern states. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans here by a large margin, and registered female voters substantially outnumber male ones. Over the course of his term, Mr. McCrory, a former mayor of Charlotte, has labored at times to balance his pragmatic inclinations with the more ideological impulses of some of his fellow Republicans, particularly in the legislature.

Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general and a Democrat, has begun a campaign for governor, and many analysts say he could be a formidable opponent.

Ms. Reed and others contend that in signing this bill and others, Mr. McCrory has violated a pledge he made as a candidate in 2012 to not support further restrictions on abortion. In a statement on Thursday, Graham H. Wilson, a spokesman for Mr. McCrory, said the law “includes common-sense measures aimed at protecting women’s health by ensuring medical professionals use proper safety precautions, and this commitment is consistent with the governor’s pledge.”

Gerrick Brenner, the executive director of Progress NC Action, a liberal group, recently sent an email to supporters that accused Mr. McCrory of “breaking his promise to women.” The new law, Mr. Brenner wrote, was a “creepy scheme” that could be mistaken for “something out of George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ ” The overall impact of that message remains to be seen, especially because Ms. Fitzgerald and her allies have also used the issue to mobilize passionate anti-abortion voters here.

In 2014, abortion rights advocates campaigned heavily for Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat, in her effort to fend off her Republican challenger, Thom Tillis, an abortion opponent. Mr. Tillis won a close race, even though Planned Parenthood Votes, a national political action committee, spent $1.9 million on the contest.

Mr. McCrory’s camp appears to have its own strategy for absorbing the liberal criticism: Last week, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh, the McCrory campaign asserted that the governor was “under attack” from the Democratic presidential candidate — and wrapped the assertion in a fund-raising pitch.

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