WASHINGTON — North Carolina House Republicans are pushing legislation that would restrict abortion access, attaching the measure to an unrelated motorcycle safety bill on Wednesday and giving neither the public nor Democratic legislators any advance notice.
On Wednesday morning, state Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D) wrote on Twitter, “New abortion bill being heard in the committee I am on. The public didn’t know. I didn’t even know.”
“I wish I had more time to look at this new bill before I had to ask questions about it or debate it,” he added.
The bill then passed the state House Judiciary Committee in a 10-5 party-line vote.
The stealth maneuver came after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) threatened to veto a similar Senate bill on Wednesday morning. The Senate legislation would require abortion providers to meet strict licensing standards and would mandate that a doctor is present for the entire procedure.
The state’s top health official has called for lawmakers to slow down on the abortion legislation, and in his 2012 campaign, McCrory pledged not to sign any legislation that would further restrict abortion access.
House Republicans tweaked the Senate legislation: A doctor would have to be present when the first drug in an abortion procedure is administered — rather than for the entire procedure — and clinics would not have to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.
According to the Raleigh News and Observer, Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam (R), who has been leading the House push, believes the bill addresses McCrory’s concerns. The paper added that “McCrory’s lobbyist appeared to work with the bill’s chief supporters before the meeting, but it’s still unclear how McCrory would act on the amended bill.”
When asked for reaction to the House bill, McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said the governor had no additional comment at this time.
In an email to The Huffington Post, Judiciary Committee co-chair state Rep. Chuck McGrady (R) said that Stam and state Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R) led the process for the legislation.
“I played no role in deciding how to move the bill,” he said.
State Rep. Rick Glazier (D), who spoke out aggressively against the bill, said that despite the changes, the intent of the legislation was still the same.
The Senate had also stuck its abortion legislation onto an unrelated measure that would ban Sharia law, drawing a rebuke from McCrory. On Wednesday, House Democrats denounced the process surrounding the House bill as a “sham” and “as bad as the Senate.”
“It is a disgrace to North Carolina that legislators have again resorted to sneak attacks to move their anti-women’s health agenda forward,” said Planned Parenthood Health Systems’ Melissa Reid, in a statement. “Once again there was no public notice that this bill would be heard. The public and even many legislators on the committee only learned this was a possibility at 9:57 a.m. — three minutes before the committee was to meet — when a political reporter was tipped off and posted it on Twitter. This is outrageous and not how the people’s business should be conducted.”
This story has been updated to include comment from Pat McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch and Chuck McGrady.