Here’s what happened ahead of the “crossover” deadline.
May 13 marked the North Carolina General Assembly’s crossover deadline, which means only bills that have passed one legislative chamber and “cross over” to the other will be considered for the rest of the 2021 legislative session. This represents an important point in the legislative process as we now prepare for lawmakers to ratify bills and send them to Governor Cooper for his signature or veto.
With anti-reproductive health politicians still in power in the General Assembly, there’s, unfortunately, more bad news than good to report. Legislative leadership largely prioritized and approved bills that would harm our communities and restrict access to abortion while failing to take action on measures that would have helped North Carolinians thrive. Read on to learn more about which bills are still in play and which never saw the light of day.
These are the bills that we’re watching that still have a chance at becoming law:
Some good news! House Bill 608: A bipartisan bill that would first and foremost ban the shackling of pregnant and postpartum people in prison and jail passed the House unanimously last week. Although 34 states restrict this practice, North Carolina has yet to outlaw it. This is an important policy change that formerly incarcerated individuals and advocacy groups have been working toward for years. The issue has gained more traction recently due to a heartbreaking incident in Pitt Co. This bill contains a few other important provisions that will improve the health and safety of people who are incarcerated, including ensuring access to menstrual products in our state’s prisons and jails. We are hopeful that this bill will garner the same widespread bipartisan support in the Senate and reach Governor Cooper’s desk in the next few weeks.
Senate Bill 405 - This bill targets doctors who provide safe and legal abortion care with the threat of a criminal penalty. This so-called “born alive” bill is the same anti-abortion legislation we defeated in 2019. This revived version is yet another ploy to spread misinformation about how abortion care works, the people who have abortions, and the doctors who care for them. Instead of respecting every person’s decision and acknowledging the complexities of pregnancy care, anti-abortion politicians are again resorting to inflammatory rhetoric to distract from their true agenda — to ban safe, legal abortion in North Carolina. This bill will now be considered by lawmakers in the House. Contact your state representative now and urge them to vote against S.B. 405.
House Bill 453 - This bill would prevent a person from obtaining an abortion based on the supposed reason behind the pregnant person’s decision. Bans like this one set a dangerous precedent of politicians defining “good” and “bad” reasons to obtain an abortion and ultimately make it harder for a patient to obtain the care they need. This bill also perpetuates racist stereotypes and attempts to co-opt the disability rights movement to push an anti-abortion agenda. This bill will now be considered by lawmakers in the Senate. Contact your state senator now and urge them to vote against H.B. 453.
House Bill 805 - This bill is a so-called “anti-riot” bill that would significantly increase penalties for individuals found to be participating in and/or inciting a riot. In reality, this legislation — which was filed in direct response to the protests against police brutality and white supremacy last year — is an egregious attempt to stifle a person’s right to protest. H.B. 805 undermines the very foundation of participatory democracy and will undoubtedly be used to target Black and Brown communities. Contact your legislator now and urge them to oppose H.B. 805.
House Bill 324 - This bill would prevent schools from teaching Critical Race Theory, which holds that systemic racism has been and remains part of the nation’s history. Teaching students about systemic racism and sexism is not discrimination. By preventing students from learning about the history of oppression, the education system will willfully ignore the lived experiences of Black and Brown people and allow systemic racism to continue unchallenged. Contact your legislator now and urge them to oppose H.B. 324.
Here are the bills that would have advanced reproductive freedom but unfortunately never received a vote by either chamber and did not make the crossover deadline:
House Bill 188 - The RBG Act would have repealed several restrictions that are currently law in North Carolina and make it harder to obtain an abortion, including the 72-hour mandatory delay in care and several bans on insurance coverage, including on the ACA Exchange, State Employee Health Plan, local government health plans, and Medicaid. A companion bill, Senate Bill 167, was introduced in the Senate and also did not meet the crossover deadline. Eliminating these unnecessary restrictions to accessing an abortion would have expanded reproductive freedom, particularly for people who are low-income, and corrected some of the wrongs done by the General Assembly in the past.
Senate Bill 632 - The North Carolina Momnibus Act would have addressed some of the health disparities in Black infant and maternal mortality. Provisions of the bill included strengthening and supporting community-based systems and organizations, addressing implicit bias in health care, supporting pregnant veterans, and more. A companion bill, House Bill 507, was introduced in the House and also did not meet the crossover deadline. In North Carolina, Black women are more than two and a half times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications.
House Bill 817 - This bill would have increased access to affordable birth control by allowing pharmacists to prescribe and dispense it, while also aligning North Carolina law to the provisions of the ACA that disallow out-of-pocket costs for birth control in insurance plans.
So far this session, anti-reproductive rights lawmakers in the General Assembly continue to ignore calls to expand access to health care across the state and instead push their agenda to ban abortion. In order to pass these important pieces of legislation and others that protect and expand access to health care, we need to elect more legislators who believe in and will fight for reproductive freedom. Elections have consequences, and we hope folks will join us in that effort as we gear up for 2022.
In the meantime, we hope you will join us as we continue to advocate for the passage of “Dignity for Women Who are Incarcerated” (H.B. 608) and against anti-abortion bills, anti-protest bills, and bills that move us backward, not forward, in our fight for racial justice and health equity.
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