Update 5/13/21: Senate Bill 405 has passed the North Carolina Senate and now heads to the House. Additionally, House Bill 453 has passed the House and now heads to the Senate. Click here to read more about these bills and the ones we are watching for the rest of legislative session.
Leaders in the General Assembly have filed several bills that would make it even harder to get an abortion in North Carolina and perpetuate the stigma around a person’s decision to end their pregnancy. These anti-reproductive health bills range from adding more medically unnecessary restrictions for patients and providers to perpetuating abortion stigma to an all-out ban on abortion.
All of these bills would have an outsized impact on Black, Indigenous, and people of color and seek to further control folks’ decisions over their bodies, lives, and futures. And many of them have been introduced by the same lawmakers who are also attempting to pass laws that target immigrants, separate families, discriminate against people who are transgender, take away people’s health care, and make it harder for people to participate in democracy.
There is a lot to keep up with, and things are moving quickly. But of all the anti-abortion bills introduced by state lawmakers so far this year, there are three that we believe are most likely to be passed by both chambers of the General Assembly and reach Governor Cooper’s desk. Here’s what you need to know about them.
1. Senate Bill 405 - A bill targeting and penalizing doctors who provide abortions.
This bill targets doctors who provide safe and legal abortion care with the threat of a criminal penalty. This bill is not based on medical science and would create confusion among both patients and physicians about the options available during complex or emergency medical situations. It demonizes and criminalizes doctors, stigmatizes reproductive health care, and seeks to intimidate doctors in order to prevent them from providing the care their patients need.
This so-called “born alive” bill is the same anti-abortion legislation we defeated in 2019. This revived version is yet another attack on North Carolinians’ access to safe abortions and an attack on the doctors who provide them, particularly those who provide care to patients experiencing complex pregnancies.
Practically speaking, this bill is also unnecessary because federal laws already address doctors who do not meet the standards of abortion care, and physicians in North Carolina already follow rigorous licensing requirements, standards of care, and ethical codes when providing care to pregnant patients.
2. House Bill 453 - A bill that would restrict access to abortion based on a patient’s supposed reason behind their decision.
This bill would prevent a person from obtaining an abortion based on the supposed reason behind the pregnant person’s decision. The bill would prevent a person from obtaining an abortion based on the presumed race of the fetus or a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Bans like this one — which have been introduced across the country — are part of a larger campaign to stigmatize abortion and pass as many laws as possible to restrict access to abortion. These bans also set a dangerous precedent of politicians defining “good” and “bad” reasons to obtain an abortion and promote racist stereotypes.
This bill would also require doctors to provide a statement confirming that the patient did not tell the physician that they were seeking an abortion based on the sex, race, or diagnosis of the fetus. The doctor would also be required to provide this information along with the image of the patient’s ultrasound to the Department of Health and Human Services.
North Carolina already has a sex-selective abortion ban in place — a law based on anti-immigrant sentiments and racist stereotypes that Asian American and Pacific Islander women would make the decision to end a pregnancy based on a preference to have a son. This ban and its offensive justification is inaccurate and encourages racial profiling within the medical system.
Race-selective abortion bans like H.B. 453 are based on the premise that women of color, particularly Black women and Latinas, seek abortions on the basis of the race of the fetus, the race of the person who impregnated them, or a person’s own perception that their race is “undesired.” These bans perpetuate the oppressive narrative that women of color cannot be trusted to make their own reproductive decisions and force people of color to justify their decision to have an abortion. Contrary to the rhetoric of the politicians who are promoting this bill, this law would do nothing to address the very real racism that Black and Brown parents and their children face, not to mention doing nothing to address the racialized violence, harassment, and reproductive coercion that Black, Indigenous, and women of color often endure.
Bans based on a fetal diagnosis such as Down syndrome do not, as they claim, address discrimination or the needs of people with disabilities nor do they provide support to them or their families. H.B. 453 is being promoted by anti-abortion lawmakers attempting to shamefully co-opt the mantle of disability rights.
Also important: Anti-abortion lawmakers have used the term “eugenics” while justifying the provisions in H.B. 453, stating that the intention of this bill is to “eradicate discrimination based on race or disability.” At the heart of the American eugenics movement is reproductive control and coercion, with people in power deciding which traits are “desirable” for future generations. Anti-abortion bills take away a person’s ability to decide when, if, and how to become a parent and are simply an extension of this oppression. H.B. 453 is built on racist and ableist assumptions and stereotypes, and the reference to eugenics is offensive and wrong. Black and Brown people and people with disabilities must be free to make their own decisions about their bodies and pregnancies. Full stop.
Lawmakers concerned about sexism, racism, people with disabilities, or other forms of discrimination should ensure there is access to comprehensive health care and pass laws that actually support people who decide to parent, including those who parent children with health conditions or disabilities. And they should stop trying to pass laws that make it harder for Black people to vote, target people who are immigrants, or otherwise protect institutionalized racism.
3. Senate Bill 404 - A bill requiring doctors to give patients medically inaccurate information about medication abortion.
First, read about how medication abortion actually works.
Here’s what S.B. 404 does:
This bill would spread false and misleading information about medication abortion that could be dangerous for patients. This bill is written by politicians and based on an unproven medical theory that an abortion can be “reversed.” There is no scientific or medical evidence that proves that “reversing” a medication abortion is possible — no clinical trials, no objective or credible data. Because there have been no clinical trials, this has not been tested for safety, effectiveness, or the likelihood of side effects. Moreover, the medical protocol proposed in this bill could in fact endanger people’s health. A study launched in early 2019 to test this theory had to be halted early due to patient safety concerns, including a high risk of severe hemorrhaging.
This bill would interfere in the doctor-patient relationship and informed consent process by forcing doctors to tell their patients information that is medically inaccurate. The bill would require that doctors tell their patients that an abortion can be “reversed” if they choose not to take misoprostol, the pill that would complete the abortion. Major medical organizations have said this bill would undermine doctors' ability to provide informed consent by compelling them to tell patients that their decision to end a pregnancy can be undone when no credible evidence supports that claim. Medical professionals must be able to provide the highest quality health care based on their years of training and in keeping with current research and medical best practices. This bill is written by politicians — not doctors — and is about shaming women and blocking access to safe, legal, medical care.
The bottom line: All of these anti-abortion bills have a common thread: they are pushed by lawmakers who want to exert control over people’s reproductive decisions, their bodies, and their futures. Together, they are part of a nationwide, coordinated strategy to chip away at abortion access and further stigmatize the decision to have an abortion — a decision that one in four women in the U.S. will make by the time they’re 45. In the weeks to come, we must organize to hold the line and push back against this offensive and harmful political rhetoric.