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Saturday, May 7, 2011

NC House Committees Hear Testimony on the Abortion Woman's Right to Know.

The NC House Judiciary B Committee heard testimony Thursday, May 4, on the Abortion-Woman's Right to Know (A-WRTK), H854.  Reps. Ruth Samuelson and Pat McElraft, the bill's primary sponsors, spoke first.  Because of the need to be in another committee meeting, Rep. McElraft spoke briefly at the beginning.  Then, Rep. Samuelson thoroughly explained the bill prior the testimony of those who support and oppose the legislation. The committee Chair, Rep. Stevens, alternated the testimony between those who oppose the bill with those who support the bill.

Those speaking against the bill were Janet Colm, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina; Sarah Preston, lobbyist for the ACLU; David Grimes, a Clinical Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine; and Erica Pedigrew, a fifth year medical student at UNC-CH.

Speaking in support of the bill were: Barbara Holt, President of North Carolina Right to Life; Monsignor David Brockman, Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh; Sara Riggins, representing NC Family Policy Council; Rev. Mark Creech, Executive Director of the Christian Action League; Danelle Hallenbeck, post abortive mother and former Leader of Operation Outcry in NC; and Betty Rogosich, CEO of Birth Choice serving Eastern NC.

To watch the WRAL video of the proceedings, click here.  Before the discussion of the A-WRTK, there were about 40 minutes of discussion on two different bill.  Move the bar to advance to the A-WRTK discussion unless you wish to hear everything discussed in the meeting.

The House Judiciary Sub Committee B met for a second time on May 11, with the entire two hour meeting devoted to the Abortion-Woman's Right to Know bill.  The first hour was devoted to hearing testimony from both sides with each side having 25 minutes.  The last hour of the meeting was devoted to discussion of the bill by the committee with a vote on the bill as the final action.  For the most part, those members of the committee who opposed or supported the bill made statements about the bill.  The bill passed the committee along party lines with Rep. Grier Martin not casting a vote because he was called away to another committee at which one of his bills was being considered.

You can watch the video of the meeting here.

The bill was assigned to Appropriations Sub Committee on Health and Human Services which heard the bill on May 19.  There were no amendments offered and the bill passed the committee after legislators spoke both in favor and opposition to the bill.

To read Barbara Holt's prepared remarks from May 4, which had to be limited due to time constraints because of the large number of individuals giving testimony, click here.

To read other posts about the Abortion-Woman's Right to Know, H854, click here.


Barbara Holt's Prepared Testimony at May 4 House Judiciary B Subcommittee in Favor of the Abortion-Woman's Right to Know

Thank you Reps. Stam and Stevens and members of the committee for this opportunity to speak to you about why you should support the Abortion-Woman’s Right to Know. 

This legislation does not prevent a woman from having an abortion, but rather ensures that she receives all the information she needs for making an informed decision. Members of this committee who consider themselves pro-choice should support the legislation for that reason alone. 

On the other hand, speaking for North Carolina Right to Life and the many hundreds of thousands of pro-life citizens of this state, we support the bill because most women are seeking the information provided by this legislation in order to choose to bring their babies into the world rather than to abort them.  They are looking for a reason not to have an abortion.  This legislation ensures that they will receive the information they desire so they can make a life affirming decision for themselves and their children.

In his research findings, David Reardon, Ph. D., states,approximately 40 percent of post-aborted women were still hoping to discover some alternative to abortion when going for counseling at the abortion clinic; over 80 percent say they would have carried to term under better circumstances or with the support of loved ones; between 30 and 60 percent of women having abortions have a positive desire to carry the pregnancy to term and keep their babies; approximately 70 percent of women seeking abortions have a negative moral view of abortion and are choosing against their consciences because of outside pressures; over two-thirds of women seeking abortions feel they have "no choice" or are "forced" to have the abortion by others or circumstances” [Source: Zimmerman, Passage Through Abortion (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1977) 69, 110-12, 120, 193; Reardon Aborted Women - Silent No More (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1987, 9-15, 41-64.)] 

He further states, “Indeed, it is quite possible that the majority of women seeking abortions, if given a free and informed opportunity, would decide that childbirth is clearly healthier than abortion.” 

As of July 2010, according to National Right to Life, there are 25 states which have similar Casey style Women’s Right to Know statutes, that provide printed information for making an abortion decision. 24 of the 25 are currently in effect. Montana is the only state whose statute has been permanently enjoined.  Wisconsin and Alabama have laws which are deficient because of the weakness of their medical emergency language. North Carolina and Tennessee are the only two southern states without a Woman’s Right to Know law.

In the 1992 U. S. Supreme Court decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court upheld Pennsylvania’s Informed Consent law.  The court stated: “It cannot be questioned that psychological well-being is a facet of health. Nor can it be doubted that most women considering an abortion would deem the impact on the fetus relevant, if not dispositive, to the decision.... [This information] furthers the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.”

This informed consent bill poses the fundamental question: When a pregnant woman is faced with a life and death decision, can the state require her doctor to display an ultrasound image? As stated earlier, abortion jurisprudence dealing with informed consent legislation is currently controlled by Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992). Applying the holding in that case to the ultrasound provision in the bill we are discussing today, the answer is that the state can require the ultrasound to be displayed.

The United States Supreme Court plurality opinion in Casey, at 873, stated:
“Though the woman has a right to choose to terminate or continue her pregnancy before viability, it does not at all follow that the State is prohibited from taking steps to ensure that this choice is thoughtful and informed. Even in the earliest stages of pregnancy, the State may enact rules and regulations designed to encourage her to know that there are philosophic and social arguments of great weight that can be brought to bear in favor of continuing the pregnancy to full term, and that there are procedures and institutions to allow adoption of unwanted children as well as a certain degree of state assistance if the mother chooses to raise the child herself. '[T]he Constitution does not forbid a State or city, pursuant to democratic processes, from expressing a preference for normal childbirth.'"

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. at 511 (opinion of the Court) (quoting Poelker v. Doe, 432 U.S. 519, 521, 53 L. Ed. 2d 528, 97 S. Ct. 2391 (1977)). “It follows that States are free to enact laws to provide a reasonable framework for a woman to make a decision that has such profound and lasting meaning. This, too, we find consistent with Roe's central premises, and indeed the inevitable consequence of our holding that the State has an interest in protecting the life of the unborn.”

Americans overwhelmingly support the right of women to receive information about fetal development and alternatives with a 24 hour period of reflection. In a national CNN/USA/Today/Gallup Poll (January 10-12, 2003), 88% of Americans said they favored a law requiring doctors to inform patients about alternatives before performing the abortion procedure (only 11% opposed).

According to the same poll, 78 percent of Americans favored a law requiring women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours before having the procedure done (19% opposed).

Similarly, in a Harris Poll (December 10-12, 2008), “88 percent favor informed consent laws that provide women with information about abortion’s risks and alternatives beforehand” 

In conclusion, the Abortion – Woman’s Right to Know is not an attack on a personal freedom, but a guarantee of it.  It is constitutionally and legally sound.  It safeguards a woman's right to know and to make informed decisions, helps protect physicians from lawsuits, and is a reasoned and compassionate response to the needs of concerned pregnant women.