Republicans in the General Assembly keep telling us they're for limited government, and want to stop government intrusion into ordinary people's lives. As hard as I try, though, I can't figure out how the goal of keeping government out of people's private lives meshes with House bill 854, also known as the Woman's Right To Know Act. Maybe I'm missing something.
The bill sets up new regulations for women who want an abortion. Its major sponsor is Charlotte Rep. Ruth Samuelson, who, I have to say after reading the bill, seems to think that women who have chosen to have an abortion don't have enough problems already. I'm sure (ahem) that elected officials put the bill together on their own, and weren't coached in any way by anti-abortion or religious-right groups who may have coincidentally made campaign contributions. The truth is, however, that whoever wrote H854 obviously feels that just because many women go through emotional and mental agony when deciding whether to abort a pregnancy, that's no reason the state government can't make it worse.
If the bill is enacted in its current form, a woman having an abortion — an act that, I have to keep reminding readers and myself, is completely legal — will have to jump through a series of very specific, government-mandated hoops, apparently designed to change her mind. She first has to hear a doctor's spiel about the fetus' probable gestational age and the medical risks of abortion, after which she must be told she could receive benefits for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care if she carried the fetus to full term. The doctor also has to tell her that the father is responsible for assisting in the support of the child, and that she can keep the baby or place it for adoption if she wants to (duh). She must also be given a list of agencies that "offer alternatives to abortion," such as "crisis pregnancy centers," or CPCs; these centers, as I wrote in last week's column, are little more than fake medical clinics, usually run by anti-abortion and/or religious groups — many of which have given women misleading or false information in order to keep them from having an abortion.
That's not all, not by a long shot. The state will also set up a website containing abortion-related materials; each of the separate materials "shall prominently display the following statement: 'The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique living human being.'" Which is fine, except that those are theological/philosophical theories, not provable scientific facts. So, in other words, if you're a woman who has chosen to have an abortion in North Carolina, you will be legally bound to have the religious right's views spoon-fed to you whether you want to hear them or not.
And then comes the "intrusive government" coup de grace: A doctor must perform an ultrasound on the woman. The Big Brothery, oddly nightmarish language used to describe this required process reveals a lot about the people who want to ram this bill through, as well as about their contempt for the women patients.
" .... the physician, shall do each of the following:
"(1) Perform an obstetric ultrasound on the pregnant woman. [The price of the ultrasound would, of course, be added to the woman's bill.]
"(2) Provide a simultaneous explanation of what the ultrasound 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 ultrasound shall offer the pregnant woman the opportunity to hear the fetal heart tone. ...
"(3) Display the ultrasound images so that the pregnant woman may view them.
"(4) Provide a medical description of the ultrasound 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 ..." And it goes on.
So this is how the GOP lawmakers and their backers interpret "trusting people to make their own informed decisions without government intervention" — with nine pages of robotic-sounding, legalese gobbledygook that plainly inserts the state into the most private areas of a woman's life.