North Carolina's SB 353 All But Bans Abortion


North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory went against his campaign promise not to pass any abortion restrictions when he signed SB 353 into law on Monday. Proponents of these new abortion regulations used shady tactics to pass the measure including tacking the controversial language onto two unrelated bills before it was passed as its own. Previous attempts to fly under the radar included tying it to the Motorcycle Safety Act and an anti-Sharia bill. If the deceptive nature of their attempts to pass this bill doesn't scare you, its connection to the larger anti-abortion agenda should.

Reproductive justice advocates call this type of indirect attack on access to health care Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers: TRAP laws. TRAP laws have become an increasingly popular anti-choice strategy that entails requiring abortion providers to undergo expensive remodeling and renovations that have nothing to do with the procedure or medical findings, and are disguised as a way to "make women safer."

The bill is said to effectively close most of North Carolina's 16 abortion clinics because they will be unable to meet the standards of an outpatient surgical center, which costs about $1 million more to build. Outpatient surgical centers have specific requirements because they usually involve emergency care, and provide much more risky and invasive services than abortion. Critics of the bill say that the bill has nothing to do with women's safety and everything to do with controlling women's bodily autonomy. Even if we ignored the fact that the model legislation for this bill, the Abortion Patients' Enhanced Safety Act, was drafted by the organization Americans United For Life, it's easy to see that the additional requirements have little to nothing to do with abortion procedures or "keeping women safe."

Some of the requirements include widening hallways and doorways, a guaranteed square footage per operating room, mandatory bathrooms and water fountains in the waiting facilities, and/or installation of new air conditioning systems. Surprise! None of these requirements are directly related to women's safety.

The lesser-understood regulation is to require all medical practitioners at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This sounds reasonable, but by making local hospitals a gatekeeper for whether or not abortions can be provided at a completely separate clinic means that anti-choice extremists can direct their attention to a more winnable target. It also means that local hospitals have veto power over whether an abortion provider can exist. This law also willfully ignores the fact that these admitting privileges or transfer agreements are difficult to obtain.

Don't get me started on the racist sex-selective abortion ban included in the bill.

All of these have little to do with abortion procedures themselves, and more to do with setting a bar so high that abortion providers cannot reach it without costly modifications to their clinics. These are solutions in search of a problem, and the public is quick to catch on to the hypocrisy and paternalistic nature of these laws. Before other states jump on this bandwagon, they should think long and hard about whether they want us at their doorstep.