'Ag-Gag' And New Abortion Restrictions To Become Law
Wednesday night was a busy night in Raleigh. First, House lawmakers voted 79-36 to override the governor’s veto of a bill that will allow employers to sue workers who secretly take pictures or record audio in their place of business. The Senate had already voted to override the veto, which means the bill will become law.
Those in favor of House Bill 405, known as the Ag-Gag bill, say it's needed to protect businesses, especially the state’s agricultural industry, from those who seek employment with a company to document practices they find objectionable. Rep John Szoka, a bill sponsor, says the legislation does not affect whistle-blowers, who he says can still report wrongdoing.
"I don’t want to discourage any good employees of any industry from reporting illegal activities to the proper authorities and not the media and not private special interest group organizations," Szoka said on the House floor.
Animal rights groups say their undercover picture-taking and recordings of practices they find abusive at poultry and cattle operations are the target of the legislation.
Rep. Pricey Harrison, who voted to sustain the governor’s veto, says people working at these types of operations, in addition to day care centers or nursing homes, might hesitate in collecting evidence of abuses for fear of being fined $5,000 a day under the legislation.
"Upton Sinclair may not have been able to publish The Jungle. He got his job as an undercover journalist disclosing the horrors taking place in meat-packing warehouses at the turn of the (20th) century," Rep. Harrison said.
The bill takes effect January 1.
New Abortion Restrictions
The House had more work to do. They passed House Bill 465 which would make North Carolina the fourth state in the nation to require women seeking a non-medically essential abortion to wait 72 hours after contacting a provider, either in person or over the phone, before undergoing the procedure.
The measure also requires physicians performing abortions to be board certified OB/GYN’s and it requires clinics to transmit ultrasounds to North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services if the fetus is 16 weeks along or more. This is so officials can verify the state’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks is being followed. In a controversial move, the North Carolina Senate bundled these restrictions with a bi-partisan bill to toughen the state's sex offender laws.
Republican Jaqueline Schaffer of Mecklenburg County is one of the primary sponsors of the original version of the abortion waiting period bill. She’s argued that 72 hour wait time is needed because women need time to consider their options before seeking an abortion. At one time Schaffer compared it to the 72 hours grace period in real estate deals where the buyer or seller can back out.
But opponents of the measure, including Democrat Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg found that argument ridiculous saying it doesn’t consider all the though done before contacting a clinic in the first place. And they add this is an unnecessary regulation for what is a legal procedure in the United States.
In the end it was a party line vote of 71 to 43.
Governor McCrory "I will sign the bill"
Last week, the governor vetoed two bills in two days and said more vetoes were on the way so there was a lot of speculation that he would fight these new abortion restrictions. And when McCrory was running for governor in 2012 he said he would not support any additional regulations on abortion. But six months into his governorship he signed into law a bill that added new regulations for clinics and limited insurance coverage for government employees seeking to have an abortion.
In a statement released yesterday McCrory stated he will sign this year’s bill.
Regarding HB 465, some very positive progress was made during the last several days to protect women’s health. Working with House and Senate members, we ensured that contact, including a simple phone call, would start a reasonable process that protects women’s health, and we also more clearly and rationally defined medical training and qualifications to ensure there will be no further restrictions on access.
Another Veto Override On The Way?
Last week, Governor McCrory vetoed the Magistrate Bill, which allows magistrates to opt out of performing same sex marriages if they state it violates their religious beliefs. The North Carolina Senate has already voted to override that veto. The North Carolina House seems willing to try to do the same.
The override vote was on the house calendar Wednesday but no vote was taken. It’s back on the calendar for Thursday. House Speaker Tim Moore says a vote will happen if they know there’s enough support to override the governor’s veto. For his party McCrory is urging the house to vote right away so the body can move onto other issues like creating jobs.