RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A group of doctors urged state lawmakers Wednesday not to pursue any new restrictions on abortion in North Carolina as Republican legislative leaders weigh what steps to take.
Dr. Erica Pettigrew, a family medicine and public health physician, said more than 1,000 healthcare professionals in the state have signed an open letter saying that restrictions in other states have put patient safety at risk.
“We are hearing from colleagues where they are being told by their hospital lawyers that the patient needs to be closer to death essentially,” she said. “Doctors do not want these laws.”
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year, Republican state lawmakers said that abortion access would be one of the top issues they address this year.
State law currently bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with limited exceptions for medical emergencies.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) says “working groups” of Republicans in the House and Senate have been meeting privately to see if they can come to an agreement on a single bill to unite behind that both chambers could pass.
So far, no legislation has been filed since the session began in January. Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said those talks are ongoing.
“I wouldn’t say we’re struggling to reach consensus. I think we’re working toward consensus,” he said. “It’s a very complicated issue.”
Berger has said he personally supports a ban after the first trimester with exceptions for rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother. Moore has said he favors a ban at the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks in pregnancy, but he’s also said there appears to be support in the House for what Berger has proposed.
“It’s in many respects a very emotional issue for a lot of people. I think we’ll get there. We’re still working on it,” said Berger. “Ultimately, the election took place in November. The people selected the members of (the Senate) and (the House) to make those decisions, so that’s what we intend to do.”
Dr. Alison Stuebe, a maternal-fetal medicine physician, talked about an experience with one of her patients went to an ultrasound and found the fetus was “extremely growth-restricted.” When she met her at the hospital, the mother had elevated blood pressure and signs of preeclampsia.
“Every six hours, it was a weekend. I was home. I was logging in to see did they go up enough that I could say it was too risky for her to stay pregnant and not risk losing my medical license? Finally, two days later she got sick enough and we could provide her with the care that she needed. I want you to understand that when we ban abortion at any point in time, we cause fear for clinicians that take us away from our fiduciary responsibility to do what is best for our patients,” she said.