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24-Hour Wait, New Information Required Before Abortion In NC

While a federal judge has put a temporary halt to the most controversial part of a new abortion law in North Carolina, other changes to the process are now in effect. The big change Republican state lawmakers wanted - and what they overrode a governor's veto to preserve - is the requirement that a woman be shown an ultrasound of her fetus and have the image described to her in detail at least four hours before an abortion. A U.S. District Court judge has blocked that part temporarily, saying it's likely to violate the constitutional rights of both the woman and the doctor. Meanwhile, the judge did let the rest of the new law take effect. The main change is women will have to wait longer to get an abortion - at least 24 hours from the time she makes the appointment. Opponents of the waiting period say it could end up limiting options for women who are late in discovering their pregnancies. But Barbara Holt of North Carolina Right to Life says "24 hours is a very small amount of time" for a woman to make "an informed decision." "I don't think there's any procedure that's of such consequence as abortion where they could have the procedure the day they go in to discuss their situation," says Holt. At the beginning of that 24-hour waiting period, doctors must now direct patients to a website and brochure prepared by the state Department of Health and Humans Services. It includes information about adoption services, as well as the risks of having an abortion and detailed photos of a fetus' development. Planned Parenthood Health Services Medical Director Donna Burkett some of that information is beyond what her clinics have offered. "Our previous materials, which will remain the same, have detailed information about risks of the procedure, risks of the pregnancy if carried to term," says Burkett. "In terms of photographs and pictures, no we never would give the patient information like that if we weren't being required to. We feel it's distressing for patients." Advocates of the new law say it will be far more distressing if the woman has an abortion she later regrets because she didn't have the information she needed to make the decision. Also new in North Carolina is a provision that allows the woman, her spouse, parent or sibling to sue doctors who violate the law. In 2009 - the most recent year for which the state has compiled statistics - a total of 26, 123 North Carolina residents had abortions.