- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The Senate gave its final approval late Monday to additional rules surrounding abortion in North Carolina, primarily one extending the waiting period for a woman to obtain the procedure from 24 hours to 72 hours.

The Republican-led chamber voted 32-16 largely along party lines for the bill after agreement on two amendments, including one that eased a requirement that only physicians who are board certified or certifiable in obstetrics or gynecology could perform abortions in most cases.

The bill now returns to the House, which passed a narrower version in April that contains the waiting period but lacks several of the criminal justice provisions the Senate added. If the House accepts the Senate’s version, the bill would head to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk. If not, the chambers must try to reach a compromise.

Both versions require doctors to provide more data to state regulators about certain second-trimester abortions. The Senate version also makes clear that clinics and ambulatory surgical centers where abortions are performed will be inspected annually and that no one under 18 can be employed at them. The clinic language responds to draft rules proposed last December by the Department of Health and Human Services and mandated by the legislature in 2013.

Bill supporters have said the extended wait will give pregnant women more time to collect information before making a difficult decision. Sponsors of the House bill also have said they’re hopeful that the measure would lead to fewer abortions.

Senate Democrats - none of whom voted for the bill - dominated Monday’s debate, saying the measure at its core still threw up barriers to women seeking to undergo what the courts have ruled is a constitutionally protected procedure. There is no documented health reason for extending the waiting period, said Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash.

Instead, it will cause women to look for unlawful methods of abortions that could endanger their lives, Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Northampton, told bill supporters. “It is counterproductive to what you’re trying to do,” she said.

Three other states have 72-hour waiting periods: Missouri, South Dakota and Utah. Oklahoma’s identical waiting period goes into effect in November.

An amendment Monday night decreased the requirement for performing most abortions from OB-GYN doctors only to include physicians with “sufficient training” in safe abortion care and “miscarriage management.” The change addresses some smaller counties with no practicing OB-GYNs, said Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, sponsor of the amendment that passed 46-1.

Senate Republicans blocked a vote on an amendment by Smith-Ingram that would have prohibited shackling of pregnant prisoners, especially during labor and delivery. Such a policy is already in place within the state corrections division, according to Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson.

The Senate measure also:

- expands the definition of statutory rape.

- makes administrative changes to improve the collection of child support.

- requires registered sex offenders in other states to stay away from playgrounds and schools like registered offenders in North Carolina must avoid.

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