The 2011 legislative session was marked by a significant amount of pro-life and pro-family legislation. The most contested of these was HB 854, the “Women’s Right to Know Act,”which would have required that women be completely informed of all alternatives to abortion, offered an ultrasound, and given a 24-hour waiting period before making the final decision to have the procedure.
Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed this bill stating it “contains provisions that are the most extreme in the nation in terms of interfering with that relationship,” referring to the doctor-patient relationship.
Contrary to Perdue’s statement, however, similar legislation has been enacted in 32 states, including every state in the southeast with the exception of North Carolina. Supporting legislators presented the bill as a way to make abortions rarer while still protecting the legal right to have the procedure.
They also say it will prevent the spread of a drive-thru style, uninformed, “abortion-on-demand” culture.According to a 2005 figure, North Carolina ranks 9th in the US in abortions performed.
Bill sponsor, Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R – Mecklenburg), said that Perdue ought to be ashamed of herself for vetoing this act. “She [Perdue] made no attempt to work with us in this effort to make abortion safer and rarer, a goal even many abortion advocates support,” she said.
An override may be possible in the continued session that beginsin July. The bill originally passed 71-48 in the House, only one vote shy of a veto proof majority. Rep. Samuelson said that she has been in contact with Democratic legislators who would vote in favor of the bill, but so far, feel pressured to stand against it.
The state budget (HB 200) also had pro-life stipulations. It eliminated all state and federal Planned Parenthood funding and removed the State Abortion Fund. Gov. Perdue vetoed the budget, but fortunately the House and Senate overrode the veto and passed the budget without gubernatorial approval for the first time in North Carolina history.
In addition, Gov. Perdue signed Ethen’s Law (HB 215) on April 29, which makes an unborn child a separate victim of murder in a violent crime. The law was named for Jenna Nielson, who was stabbed to death while eight months pregnant with her unborn son, Ethen.
Gov. Perdue supported the bill saying that, “I do support punishing any person who would attack or kill a pregnant woman.”
The bill, however, specifically contains a provision that states that the bill does not apply to legal abortions.
HB 289 was also part of the session. It includes a “Choose Life” plate among special options for license plates. Many Democrat legislators contested this bill, arguing there should also be a “Respect Choice” license plate available for purchase. However, an amendment to include this provision was unsuccessful.If signed by the Governor, the bill would make North Carolina one of seventeen states and the last state in the southeast to adopt the “Choose Life” plate.
Finally, the legislature will return in late summer to discuss constitutional amendments. Among these is the highly contested Defense of Marriage Act that would constitutionally change the legal definition of marriage to be between a man and a woman.
Already, 30 states have adopted constitutional amendments and others have similar legislation. Only four states, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico and Rhode Island, do not have either a constitutional provision or a statute prohibiting “same-sex marriage.”
All things considered, it was a good session for pro-life and family issues. While the more major reforms, like Women’s Right to Know, might have to wait for a future session, North Carolina is on track with its southern neighbors in becoming a solid socially conservative state.