Last week, North Carolina’s state Senate passed its “Woman’s Right to Know Act” — a bill that will require women to wait 24 hours before receiving abortion services, require them to view and hear a description of an ultrasound and require providers to give women printed information about risks associated with the procedure. The measure is similar to a Florida bill approved by the Legislature this year.
The law would make North Carolina one of 34 states to require a waiting period before an abortion. Seven states now require counseling before the waiting period, 16 states require that the woman be offered information on the risks and eight require that the materials be given to her.
North Carolina’s legislation also requires that physicians who perform the procedure show the woman a real-time view of her unborn child while simultaneously describing what she is seeing. Four other states require that the mother see an ultrasound, but North Carolina would be the first to require a woman to listen to her doctor describe the images. Women without private insurance or Medicaid would be required to pay for the ultrasound procedure, generally around $300, out of pocket.
The Florida Legislature also pursued a bill this session that requires doctors to perform an ultrasound on any woman seeking an abortion. While originally the bill also required that a woman hear a description of the ultrasound, the final bill (which awaits the governor’s signature) does include an opt-out provision.
North Carolina’s bill could face a weighty legal problem because it does not allow women a way to opt out of these requirements.
Indiana is currently facing legal challenges due to a law that forces doctors administering an abortion to tell women that life begins at fertilization and that a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks gestation. Opponents to the law have claimed that, “forcing doctors to give information that they believe is false and misleading violates the First Amendment protection of free speech.”
Florida’s original ultrasound bill received similar criticism from Republicans and Democrats, alike. State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, was initially concerned about forcing doctors to tell women what they were seeing on an ultrasound. He asked bill’s sponsor, “Could that be, ‘I see the little legs kicking. I see the heart beating’? Those kinds of things? Is that what the woman is going to have to go through here?”
Once the bill was altered to include an opt-out for women, Latvala voted in favor of the mandatory-ultrasound bill.
Besides possible legal problems, North Carolina’s law could also cost the state millions of dollars. According to fiscal research from the General Assembly, it is estimated that over the next five years this bill “could cost $35 million to cover development of a website to describe statewide resources and to produce and distribute the informational materials,” the N&O reported.
North Carolina, like Florida, has had an influx of GOP members in its state legislature since the 2010 election. This GOP-led legislature has pursued several anti-abortion measures this session. Most recently, the legislature’s super-majority has allowed them to even override the governor’s veto of a bill that denies Planned Parenthood its state and federal funding.