by Bob Geary
It takes a three-fifths majority to override a veto by the Governor. In the Senate, that would be 30 votes out of 50 if every senator is present. Today, the Senate did, indeed, override Gov. Perdue's veto of H854, the bill to interfere with a woman's right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy. It did so by a 29-19 vote. All 29 votes in favor were from Republicans. The 19 Democratic senators all voted no.
That's right, 29 votes were sufficient for the override because two senators, Republicans Richard Stevens of Wake County and Stan Bingham of Davidson County, were absent. Bingham voted against the bill when it was first considered by the Senate in June. Stevens was listed then as present but not voting.
Stevens chose not to be in Raleigh for the special session. A call to his office to ask where he is went straight to voicemail. I've emailed the question to him as well.
[Update No. 2: Sen. Stevens responded to my email on Saturday. He said he was away on a long-planned trip. The session on redistricting — expanded to include override votes — was originally slated to take place two weeks earlier. Stevens said he was assured "my vote was not needed on any matter last week." Assured, that is, by the Senate GOP leadership. His vote wasn't needed to override Gov. Perdue's veto. It was needed by the pro-choice side to sustain her veto. Another "not voting" by Stevens, however, wouldn't have mattered — that's true. The rule is that a three-fifths vote of those present and voting is needed to override a veto, meaning that with 48 senators present, 29 votes were sufficient.]
[Update: 24 hours later, still no response from Stevens. He has the press room reserved at the General Assembly Monday morning, probably to talk about charter schools. Hope he didn't take the wrong week off — the General Assembly session ended on Thursday :) ]
Bingham is in Raleigh but left the chamber this morning with an "excused absence" — naturally, the Republican leadership was happy to excuse him, because if he'd been on the floor, either voting no or not voting, 29 votes out of 49 members present would've been short of the three-fifths requirement. But 29 out of 48 members present was just enough.
Bingham has been quoted as saying he voted his conscience the first time, but his choice today was not to buck the Republican caucus. What Stevens' view of this bill is, I don't know.
The bill is now law, with Perdue's veto overridden by the Senate and the House.
Reaction from Planned Parenthood:
Today’s vote reveals that some legislators care more about scoring political points than they do about protecting women’s rights and health. They are so extreme that they refused to even allow exceptions for rape, incest, or when something has gone terribly wrong with the pregnancy. We urge all North Carolinians who value reproductive rights and health to remember this vote in November of next year.
Planned Parenthood will take all necessary steps to reduce the negative impact this intrusive legislation will have on our patients. We will continue to provide compassionate, non-judgemental health services to women who need them.
The debate was straightforward, though exasperating for senators who think women have a right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term and should be permitted to make their decision without undue obstacles — especially the obstacle of a state government that says, don't do it. Or as Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, put it, a state government that steps in after the hard decision's been made and says, "No, no, little lady."
The bill dictates a tortuous process (relevant portions are copied below, or click on the link to the bill itself) by which a doctor must warn a patient about the risks of an abortion using the exact words the Republicans have written; insist that she consider alternatives; show her pictures designed to talk her out of it; make her look at the pictures or sign a statement that she chose not to; and at the end of it all send her home to think about it for at least 24 hours.
Opponents have labeled it the "Women Are Stupid Bill," but its official name is the "Women's Right to Know Act."
Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, who spoke for the Republican majority, was candid about its purpose. Invoking "almighty God," Daniel said that if the obstacles the bill creates prevent a single abortion — "if it saves one life" — then it was the right thing for the legislature to do.
Daniel cited an estimate by the legislature's research division that the bill would result in 3,000 fewer abortions a year.
Sen. William Purcell, D-Scotland, who is a doctor, said it won't prevent any abortions. What it will do, he said, is cause women who've decided to terminate a pregnancy to seek out illegal providers or else try to self-induce abortion.
Coming on top of the Republicans' attacks on Planned Parenthood and women's health funding, Sen. Linda Garrou, D-Guilford, said, the passage of H854 amounts to "a serious, serious attack on women."
Excerpts of the bill are copied below.
No abortion shall be performed upon a woman in this State without her voluntary and informed consent. Except in the case of a medical emergency, consent to an abortion is voluntary and informed only if all of the following conditions are satisfied:
At least 24 hours prior to the abortion, a physician or qualified professional has orally informed the woman, by telephone or in person, of all of the following:
a. The name of the physician who will perform the abortion.
b. The particular medical risks associated with the particular abortion procedure to be employed, including, when medically accurate, the risks of infection, hemorrhage, cervical tear or uterine perforation, danger to subsequent pregnancies, including the ability to carry a child to full term, and any adverse psychological effects associated with the abortion.
c. The probable gestational age of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed.
d. The medical risks associated with carrying the child to term.
e. The display of a real-time view of the unborn child and heart tone monitoring that enable the pregnant woman to view her unborn child or listen to the heartbeat of the unborn child are available to the woman. The physician performing the abortion, qualified technician, or referring physician shall inform the woman that the printed materials and Web site described in G.S. 90-21.83 and G.S. 90-21.84 contain phone numbers and addresses for facilities that offer the services free of charge. If requested by the woman, the physician or qualified professional shall provide to the woman the list as compiled
by the Department.
f. If the physician who is to perform the abortion has no liability
insurance for malpractice in the performance or attempted
performance of an abortion, that information shall be communicated.
g. The location of the hospital that offers obstetrical or gynecological care located within 30 miles of the location where the abortion is performed or induced and at which the physician performing or inducing the abortion has clinical privileges. If the physician who will perform the abortion has no local hospital admitting privileges,
that information shall be communicated.
If the physician or qualified professional does not know the information required in sub-subdivisions a., f., or g. of this subdivision, the woman shall be advised that this information will be directly available from the physician who is to perform the abortion. However, the fact that the physician or qualified professional does not know the information required in sub-subdivisions a., f., or g. shall not restart the 24-hour period. The information required by this subdivision shall be provided in English and in each language that is the primary language of at least two percent (2%) of the State's population. The information may be provided orally either by telephone or in person, in which case the required information may be based on facts supplied by the woman to the physician and whatever other relevant information is reasonably available.
The information required by this
subdivision may not be provided by a tape recording but shall be provided during a consultation in which the physician is able to ask questions of the patient and the patient is able to ask questions of the physician. If, in the medical judgment of the physician, a physical examination, tests, or the availability of other information to the physician subsequently indicates a revision of the information previously supplied to the patient, then that revised information may be communicated to the patient at any time before the performance of the abortion. Nothing in this section may be construed to preclude provision of required information in a language understood by the patient through a translator.
(2) The physician or qualified professional has informed the woman, either by telephone or in person, of each of the following at least 24 hours before the abortion:
a. That medical assistance benefits may be available for prenatal care,
childbirth, and neonatal care.
b. That public assistance programs under Chapter 108A of the General
Statutes may or may not be available as benefits under federal and
State assistance programs.
c. That the father is liable to assist in the support of the child, even if
the father has offered to pay for the abortion.
d. That the woman has other alternatives to abortion, including keeping
the baby or placing the baby for adoption.
e. That the woman has the right to review the printed materials
described in G.S. 90-21.83, that these materials are available on a State-sponsored Web site, and the address of the State-sponsored Web site. The physician or a qualified professional shall orally inform the woman that the materials have been provided by the Department and that they describe the unborn child and list agencies that offer alternatives to abortion. If the woman chooses to view the materials other than on the Web site, the materials shall either be given to her at least 24 hours before the abortion or be mailed to her at least 72 hours before the abortion by certified mail, restricted delivery to addressee.
f. That the woman is free to withhold or withdraw her consent to the abortion at any time before or during the abortion without affecting her right to future care or treatment and without the loss of any State or federally funded benefits to which she might otherwise be entitled.
The information required by this subdivision shall be provided in English and in each language that is the primary language of at least two percent (2%) of the State's population. The information required by this subdivision may be provided by a tape recording if provision is made to record or otherwise register specifically whether the woman does or does not choose to have the printed materials given or mailed to her. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prohibit the physician or qualified professional from e-mailing a Web site link to the materials described in this subdivision or G.S. 90-21.83.
(3) The woman certifies in writing, before the abortion, that the information described in subdivisions (1) and (2) of this section has been furnished her and that she has been informed of her opportunity to review the information referred to in sub-subdivision (2)e. of this section. The original of this certification shall be maintained in the woman's medical records, and a copy shall be given to her.
(4) Before the performance of the abortion, the physician who will perform the abortion or the qualified technician must receive a copy of the written certification required by subdivision (3) of this section.
"§ 90-21.85. Display of real-time view requirement. (a) Notwithstanding G.S. 14-45.1, except in the case of a medical emergency, in order
for the woman to make an informed decision, at least four hours before a woman having any part of an abortion performed or induced, and before the administration of any anesthesia or medication in preparation for the abortion on the woman, the physician who is to perform the abortion, or qualified technician working in conjunction with the physician, shall do each of the following:
Perform an obstetric real-time view of the unborn child on the pregnant woman. Provide a simultaneous explanation of what the display is depicting, which shall include the presence, location, and dimensions of the unborn child within the uterus and the number of unborn children depicted. The individual performing the display shall offer the pregnant woman the opportunity to hear the fetal heart tone. The image and auscultation of fetal heart tone shall be of a quality consistent with the standard medical practice in the
community. If the image indicates that fetal demise has occurred, a woman
shall be informed of that fact.
(3) Display the images so that the pregnant woman may view them.
(4) Provide a medical description of the images, which shall include the
dimensions of the embryo or fetus and the presence of external members and
internal organs, if present and viewable.
(5) Obtain a written certification from the woman, before the abortion, that the
requirements of this section have been complied with, which shall indicate
whether or not she availed herself of the opportunity to view the image.
(6) Retain a copy of the written certification prescribed by subdivision (a)(5) of this section. The certification shall be placed in the medical file of the woman and shall be kept by the abortion provider for a period of not less than seven years. If the woman is a minor, then the certification shall be placed in the medical file of the minor and kept for at least seven years or for
five years after the minor reaches the age of majority, whichever is greater. If the woman has had an obstetric display of a real-time image of the unborn child within 72 hours before the abortion is to be performed, the certification of the physician or qualified technician who performed the procedure in compliance with this subsection shall be included in the patient's records and the requirements under this subsection shall be deemed to have been met.
(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a pregnant woman from averting her eyes from the displayed images or from refusing to hear the simultaneous explanation and medical description.
(c) In the event the person upon whom the abortion is to be performed is an unemancipated minor, as defined in G.S. 90-21.6(1), the information described in subdivisions (a)(2) and (a)(4) of this section shall be furnished and offered respectively to a person required to give parental consent under G.S. 90-21.7(a) and the unemancipated minor. The person required to give consent in accordance with G.S. 90-21.7(a), as appropriate, shall make the certification required by subdivision (a)(5) of this section. In the event the person upon whom the abortion is to be performed has been adjudicated mentally incompetent by a court of competent jurisdiction, the information shall be furnished and offered respectively to her spouse or a legal guardian if she is married or, if she is not married, to one parent or a legal guardian and the woman. The spouse, legal guardian, or parent, as appropriate, shall make the certification required by subdivision (a)(5) of this section. In the case of an abortion performed pursuant to a court order under G.S.90-21.8(e) and (f), the information described in subdivisions (a)(2) and (a)(4) of this section shall be provided to the minor, and the certification required by subdivision (a)(5) of this section shall be made by the minor.
"§ 90-21.86. Procedure in case of medical emergency. When a medical emergency compels the performance of an abortion, the physician shall
inform the woman, before the abortion if possible, of the medical indications supporting the physician's judgment that an abortion is necessary to avert her death or that a 24-hour delay will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions. As soon as feasible, the physician shall document in writing the medical indications upon which the physician relied and shall cause the original of the writing to be maintained in the woman's medical records and a copy given to her.