RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A pair of North Carolina Senate committees voted Wednesday to advance a bill that would prevent women from seeking abortions because of race, sex or a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.
Republicans and anti-abortion activists promoting the bill say it will prevent “modern-day eugenics.” Democrats and other opponents said it would discriminate against women by undermining their fundamental constitutional rights.
If it becomes law and isn’t blocked in court, House Bill 453 would require any abortion provider in the state to first confirm that a woman isn’t seeking to end her pregnancy to avoid having a child with Down syndrome, or a baby with an unwanted race or gender.
“I believe we will all be judged by how we treat our most vulnerable citizens, and these tiny babies are those citizens,” Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Forsyth County Republican, said before the Senate Health Committee’s GOP majority approved the bill.
The bill doesn’t provide for any civil liabilities or criminal penalties in addition to the state’s existing abortion laws, according to Jason Moran-Bates, a General Assembly staff attorney. And women could always choose not to share their true motives with their doctor.
Still, it faces widespread opposition from Democrats and abortion rights groups. The ACLU of North Carolina says it violates a woman’s right to privacy. Others noted that the bill’s Republican supporters have offered no support to disabled people after they’re born.
“We don’t need any more restrictions, especially not those that are in the name of people supporting disabilities,” said Tara Muller, policy attorney for Disability Rights North Carolina. “Forcing people to carry a pregnancy to term does nothing to advance the rights of people with disabilities.”
Most speakers at Wednesday’s health committee hearing supported the bill, bringing up personal stories of living with Down syndrome or raising children with the disability. Some pointed to false positive prenatal testing rates and said inaccurate results may prompt a woman not to go forward with her pregnancy.
Dr. Wing Ng, a physician at UNC Health and father of a girl with Down syndrome, said prenatal testing cannot accurately predict how someone like his daughter would fare in life.
“When babies are aborted for having Down syndrome, we are killing a piece of our own humanity,” Ng said. “Babies with Down syndrome have every right to exist as God intended. They should be afforded that fighting chance to live and to succeed.”
Opponents had their mics cut out after one minute of speaking, while supporters who signed up to speak earlier were given more time to talk.
“People make abortion decisions out of necessity, out of desperation and out of love. It is never rooted in hate,” said Kelsea McLain, an abortion rights advocate, before her time elapsed. “You need to quit trying to weaponize our decision-making against us.”
The plan that cleared the House last month was approved in the Senate judiciary Wednesday afternoon. It now goes to the chamber’s rules committee. If approved, it would then head to the Senate floor for a final vote. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is unlikely to sign it if it reaches his desk, as he has vetoed previous proposals limiting a woman’s ability to get an abortion. Republicans would be unlikely to get enough Democrats to join them to override a possible veto.