RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Republicans are swiftly moving an abortion-restrictions bill through the state House this week, saying the legislation would protect both civil rights and people with disabilities.
If signed into law, House Bill 453 would ban physicians from performing abortions because of race or sex, or because the fetus is suspected to have Down syndrome.
The push for the legislation puts North Carolina at the forefront of a possible new frontier in the battle over abortion rights just weeks after a U.S. appellate court moved to uphold a similar law in Ohio. That case will now go to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, with a 6-3 conservative majority, could also move to uphold the ruling.
Florida is currently considering similar legislation, and Arizona’s governor just signed a related bill into law.
North Carolina lawmakers have filed a flurry of abortion legislation in recent years. But this legislation stands out because lawmakers have framed the proposal as a civil rights and eugenics issue.
“I would argue strenuously that we do not want to be the kind of society that not only discriminates but disposes of children because of the way they are created,” said state Rep. Dean Arp, a Republican from Monroe.
Four other bills that would restrict abortion access have been filed this year, including one bill that would penalize physicians who allow abortion survivors to die. That legislation was passed by the Legislature in 2019 but ultimately vetoed by the governor.
Debate surrounding that legislation focused on the rights of a fetus. This year, lawmakers backing HB 453 have made it clear this bill is about preventing discrimination against a group of people, particularly those with disabilities.
Melinda Delahoyde, whose adult son William has Down syndrome, praised lawmakers working to pass the legislation in a committee hearing Wednesday.
“Will has done all these things with his life, and he has Down syndrome,” Delahoyde said. “Will Delahoyde is a product of the good that you have done, and the ideals and value of every human life that you have upheld.”
Opponents of the legislation said the bill would undermine the provider-patient relationship, and doesn’t actually combat discrimination as the sponsors say it does.
“The bill does nothing to address discrimination or the lives of people with disabilities,” said Katherine Farris, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “In fact, it only does one thing: It stands in the way of a person seeking an abortion.”
Two House committees approved the bill Tuesday and Wednesday over opposition from Democrats.
The bill must be heard in one more committee before heading to a vote on the House floor. If the bill passes the House, it will need to go to the Senate before making its way to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk, where it would likely be met with a veto. Leaders of both Republican-controlled chambers would then have to decide whether to try to override the Democratic governor’s veto.©2021 The News & Observer. Visit at newsobserver.com. Distributed at Tribune Content Agency, LLC.