- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Proposed updated rules governing North Carolina’s 14 current abortion clinics were released Monday, more than a year after the Republican-led legislature demanded that they be treated like outpatient surgery centers.

The regulations were developed from the state Department of Health and Human Services with feedback from doctors, clinic representatives and other medical professionals. Officials say it will raise standards of care within the clinics. The proposal now is subject to public scrutiny before being finalized. Ultimately, the rules likely will be reviewed again by the General Assembly next year.

Abortion rights advocates have been worried clinics could shut down as a result of new rules, which are the latest placed on the procedure by lawmakers in North Carolina and in other states in recent years. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill setting the rule changes in motion in July 2013.

Health department legal communications coordinator Kevin Howell said the agency believes the rules should not lead to clinics closing if they are already providing adequate care. The agency said the regulations also will improve care for patients before they are discharged and require clinics to have a 24-hour-a-day telephone contact line for any complications.

While abortion clinics have previously been inspected every three to five years, the proposed rules require annual inspections and more as the division “may deem necessary as a condition of holding such license.” The agency has said current clinic regulations have been in place since the mid-1990s.

“The proposed rules meet constitutional requirements and comply with (the bill) by improving patient safety and privacy while preserving access to services,” Drexdal Pratt, director of the Division of Health Service Regulation, which regulate clinics, said in a release.

The proposed regulations also require an organized nursing staff at the clinic led by a registered nurse and on-site automated external defibrillator.

Clinics must enter an agreement with a hospital that would receive patients in need of emergency care, but they would remain in compliance with the rules if they can document efforts but are unsuccessful to secure an agreement. Mandating transfer agreements without such exceptions in other states have been criticized as a technique to close clinics.

Planned Parenthood, which operates clinics in North Carolina, was reviewing the proposal and said late Monday it would comply with all regulations to keep its doors open in the state. The group was one of those providing input to the department on the draft rules.

Without addressing specific rules, abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina sounded suspicious of the legislation for the changes, which came tucked into a bill dealing primarily with motorcycle safety. A furious debate erupted on the House and Senate floors last year on the topic, leading hundreds of protesters to rally at the Legislative Building.

“There is absolutely no medical basis for the restrictions proposed by the General Assembly,” said NARAL NC Executive Director Suzanne Buckley, adding the law had “everything to do with making it practically impossible for North Carolina women to access abortion care.”

McCrory balked at an earlier bill and threatened to veto regulations that didn’t leave rules to the judgment of the state health agency and that would restrict access. McCrory said during his 2012 campaign last fall that he would not sign any new abortion restrictions into law, but critics argue the 2013 law contained restrictions.

Monday’s release of the rules in the North Carolina Register begins a 60-day public comment period, including a public hearing Dec. 19 in Raleigh.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide