Women will get more information and face new restrictions before having an abortion in North Carolina after the state Senate passed the regulations into law Thursday over Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto.
The Republican-led Legislature completed its veto override when the Senate voted 29-19 to approve the bill requiring women to receive counseling and wait 24 hours before an abortion. The House agreed to the override earlier this week.
The only Republican who voted against the measure when it initially passed the Senate last month, Sen. Stan Bingham of Davidson County, did not vote on Thursday. With one other Republican missing this week, the GOP had just enough votes to override Perdue's veto.
Based on the impact of similar laws in other states, the restrictions would cut the more than 27,000 abortions and result in about 2,900 additional births per year, legislative fiscal analysts said. That will cost taxpayers about $7 million a year, mostly because nearly half of the births would be funded entirely or in part by Medicaid, the health program for the poor.
North Carolina had been one of 16 states that don't require specialized counseling before an abortion. Half of all states require counseling, then a waiting period.
The law prohibits an abortion unless a woman is provided with state-specified information about the physician at least 24 hours in advance. Women also would get information about the likely stage of development of the unborn child, the medical risks of having an abortion and giving birth, and the availability of abortion alternatives.
The new law also requires that an ultrasound be presented along with a chance to hear the fetal heartbeat. Women do have the choice to look away.
Majority Republicans said the measure is designed to give women more information about what happens in an abortion and who is providing it. Social conservatives praised the bill, which also requires a woman consider an offer to see the shape of the fetus and hear a heartbeat.
State law requires a yearlong waiting period before a divorce is granted and allows three days to cancel a contract on an investment, so waiting 24 hours to reconsider an abortion after receiving state-defined information is not a great burden, said Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke.
"This bill does not take away a woman's access to abortion but rather ensures that she will have the tools necessary to make a truly informed decision," he said. "We know that this will save lives, almost 3,000 a year."
Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, said he adopted a son who has since had two daughters of his own.
"I will be forever grateful to a woman who chose not to abort," he said. "For people to suggest that 24 hours is an onerous requirement, I'm sorry, I can't accept that."
Democrats echoed Perdue in arguing the bill represented an unprecedented government intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship.
"To walk up to a stranger in a doctor's office and say, `I want an abortion,' is a very hard choice. Most women out there will think long and hard about making that choice without the government jumping in and making them jump through all those hoops," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake. "This bill represents big government intrusive in matters most personal."
The legislation also increases the risk of lawsuits for doctors who perform abortions. Doctors who fail to follow all the new regulations could be sued by a range of people, including a woman who received an abortion or was close to getting one; her spouse, parent, sibling, or guardian; or any of the woman's current or former health care providers.
"This is basically an ideological bill furthering and advancing those people that believe women should not be able to exercise their constitutional right to control their only body," said Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin.
The state also would pay to maintain a website describing locations for pregnancy counseling centers. Costs also include printing literature in Spanish and English that explains details of the abortion process and describes the fetus at various stages of development.