North Carolina Senate passes restrictive abortion bill

Protester Aaron Caldwell yells "shame" as people gather outside the Senate chamber at the state legislature while Senate Republicans gave their final approval to legislation requiring additional rules surrounding abortions in North Carolina. Gerry Broome / AP

As legislators in Texas prepare a last-ditch effort to pass a controversial abortion bill, senators in North Carolina convened for a surprise vote to add more restrictions to abortions in the state.

The bill was tentatively approved Tuesday night by the Senate and passed Wednesday morning 29-to-12. It still has to gain House approval.

Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, said last fall he didn’t want to sign any additional abortion legislation, but, if the House approves, the law would automatically go into effect if he does not veto it.

State Senator Mike Woodard, D-Durham, encouraged McCrory to block the bill if it comes to his desk.

"Governor, the women of North Carolina are counting on your to keep your commitment,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday evening.

Gov. McCrory released a statement Wednesday addressing the speedy vote.

"When the Democrats were in power, this is the way they did business,” he said in the statement. “It was not right then and it is not right now. Regardless of what party is in charge or what important issue is being discussed, the process must be appropriate and thorough."

The House bill, titled “Family, Faith, and Freedom Protection Act,” was originally intended to keep foreign laws — especially Islamic or Sharia law — out of the state’s legislative matters. However, last-minute additions that addressed abortion restrictions were added prior to the vote Tuesday night.

The restrictions are listed in the 13-line summary of the bill and include prohibiting gender-selective abortions, increasing requirements of clinics and placing more restrictions on doctors. Republican Sen. Warren Daniel, who brought the bill to the Senate floor, said it was about safety.

One of the new surgical abortion policies — which already passed in the House and was added to the Senate’s bill – requires a doctor present during the entirety of an abortion, even if the woman takes a pill to induce an abortion.

Melissa Reed, who works at Planned Parenthood Health Systems, told local NBC affiliate WNCN in North Carolina that the bill "has the potential to shut down providers across the state."

While hundreds filled the galleries to watch the vote, many others filled the streets and took to social media to voice their opinions. 

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) sent out a series of tweets saying it was “shameful” that the North Carolina general assembly pushed the bill through at the last minute.

“If #ncga leaders think they can pull a fast one on women's health right before a holiday, they are wrong. Women are watching #ncpol,” she tweeted late Tuesday night.

Some other Twitter users said they hoped for a Wendy Davis legislator for North Carolina. Last week, Davis tried to block a Texas bill that would limit abortions to 20 weeks with an 11-hour filibuster.

An email circulating the Twittersphere asked people to e-mail Gov. McCrory and stand with the “76 percent of North Carolinians who believe that reproductive health decisions must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith.”