The View From the Gallery

by Victoria Petermann

I breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week when I heard that Governor McCrory threatened that he would veto HB 695 if it was not changed before it reached his desk. This didn’t mean that all of the restrictions on abortion providers would be scrapped from the bill completely, but I hoped that some of the more outrageous attacks might be reconsidered. I hoped that the Governor might put pressure on proponents of HB 695 to make the bill less extreme.

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But my relief was short lived. On Wednesday morning I learned that House Judiciary B Committee had instigated yet another sneak attack. They introduced a series of amendments to SB 353, turning into a new version of the bill formerly known as HB 695. SB 353 had originally dealt with motorcycle safety. Suddenly, and without any public notice, it was transformed into an anti-choice bill. Many legislators on the committee didn’t even know that there was a plan to tack on the provisions from HB 695 to this bill. I heard about it through Twitter, as did most members of the public, and even some politicians.

Does this strategy ring any bells?

Yup, it’s the same exact tactic the Senate used in HB 695. How original.

This is not how government of, by, and for the people should operate. This is not democracy. I do not feel respected or safe when the people to whom I have entrusted power go behind back doors and subvert their own procedures and policies to craft legislation.  Especially when that legislation has far-reaching, severe effects.

This bill is different from HB 695, but not by much. The only significant difference between the bills relates to whether or not clinics must meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. In the new version of the bill,  the State Department of Health and Human Services to write standards for abortion care providers that are similar to those of ambulatory surgical centers. This language is vague, and it’s unclear how it would be enforced.

Representative Rick Glazier has repeatedly pointed out the fact that no medical expert was allowed to give testimony regarding the new provisions. Though SB 353 is slightly different from HB 695, the intent is still clear: to restrict women’s access to safe and legal abortion care and reproductive health services. Politicians, particularly male politicians, seem to be forgetting that they are not experts in women’s health. But don’t ask me. I’m just a citizen, just a college student, just a woman.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Representative Beverly Earle said, “We need to stop calling this an attack on women; this is a war on women.” As SB 353 goes back to the Senate for approval, the battle will focus on McCrory. Since he promised no more restrictions on abortion care, we cannot let him hide behind the rhetoric of “women’s safety” that has been paraded around by anti-choice representatives and senators alike.

The reality is that legislators will keep trying again and again to cement these restrictions into laws, under the guise of ensuring women’s safety.

But this is not a bill about protecting women. This bill will restrict access, and we will all be impacted. While I (as a white, middle-class, young woman) may see my choice limited, many others will see their choice (by which I mean their access to the full range of reproductive health care options) completely taken away.

No matter what stunt they pull next week, we will keep fighting for access and for choice, because the values held by this political majority do not speak for those of the public majority.

Victoria Petermann is the Moxie Project Intern at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina this summer.  Victoria is a North Carolina native, born and raised in Raleigh. This Fall, she will begin her Junior year at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studies Geography and Women’s Studies. 

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