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NC Proposes New Rules For Abortion Providers

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The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services proposed new rules for abortion clinics Monday. Abortion rights advocates are still studying the rules, but they're offering cautious praise for how they were developed.

Republican lawmakers attached new abortion regulations to an unrelated bill and took a surprise vote on it two summers ago. That drew hundreds of angry protesters to the capital, who worried the law would effectively shut down abortion clinics.

But the part of the law they were worried about has essentially been on hold. It instructed the state Department of Health and Human Services to come up with the exact standards for abortion clinics. The department is just now releasing its proposal.

There are currently 15 clinics that provide abortions in the state, according to NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. Suzanne Buckley is the advocacy group's executive director.

"We can't say for sure whether some of these requirements would lead to closures," she says.

But Buckley says she's pleased with the way the state health department developed the rules. She notes that reproductive health care experts were part of that process.

"These are regulations that we feel like, at this point, are really being driven by sound medicine and sound reproductive health care practices," she says.

Planned Parenthood operates four clinics that provide abortions in North Carolina and was also involved in the rulemaking process.

"At first blush, these seem like common sense requirements that really are focused on patient safety," says spokeswoman Melissa Reed.

They include organizing the nursing staff under the supervision of a registered nurse, and creating a 24-hour telephone number for patients with complications.

Reed says the proposal would not close any Planned Parenthood clinics. 

A spokesman for the state health department says the rules "should not result in the closure of any facilities that are already providing adequate care." He would not say how many currently meet that description.

The state will take public comments on the rules until January 30.