- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A bill that would extend the abortion waiting period to 72 hours in North Carolina moved closer to passage with a favorable vote Thursday on the Senate floor.

After a lengthy debate, the full Senate gave tentative approval to the bill, and a final vote in the chamber could come next week.

A version of the bill has already passed the state House, but that chamber would need to approve provisions added by Senate Republicans that include several criminal justice measures.

Under the waiting-period provision, women would have to talk to a doctor or other qualified professional 72 hours before having an abortion, unless there’s a medical emergency. Three other states have 72-hour waiting periods: Missouri, South Dakota and Utah. Oklahoma’s waiting period of that length goes into effect in November.

The North Carolina bill’s sponsors have said they want to give pregnant women more time to collect information before making a difficult decision. They also are hopeful that the measure would lead to fewer abortions.

The bill would also require a specialist in obstetrics or gynecology to perform an abortion.

The Senate’s Republican leaders used parliamentary procedures to reject or avoid votes on amendments that would undo the specialist requirement or give waiting period exemptions in the case of rape, incest or abnormalities that would prevent the baby from surviving.

The Senate also voted against efforts to put the criminal justice items in a separate bill and to reduce requirements for doctors who perform abortions in certain instances to report them to the state.

Since a version of the bill passed the House last month, Senate Republicans also have expanded the bill to include provisions related to statutory rape definitions, protection for domestic violence victims and locations that sex offenders must avoid.

Some Democrats say the additions are meant to force them into “no” votes on criminal justice measures so that they look bad to constituents.

Senators exchanged strongly worded arguments for and against the abortion-related provisions.

Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a Democrat who represents several counties in the northeastern part of the state, said there’s no data showing that a longer wait is necessary and that the waiting period would make it harder on women who are already in a difficult situation.

“You are relegating us to second-class citizenship, and you are insulting us to say it takes 72 hours to make up our mind,” she said.

Republican Sen. Joyce Krawiec, who represents Yadkin and Forsyth counties, countered that she’s counseled many women after abortions and found that a lot of them wished they hadn’t rushed their decision.

“One of the most common things I hear is that ‘I didn’t have time to make a decision,’” she said.

Since Republicans took over North Carolina’s legislature in 2011, the state has passed several laws aimed at limiting abortions, including the current 24-hour waiting period. Some GOP leaders and anti-abortion groups credit the laws with contributing to the 26 percent decline in the number of abortions in North Carolina since 2010. During the same period, overall reported pregnancies in North Carolina have fallen slightly.

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