Last week, while much of the country was focused on the July 4th holiday, Republicans in North Carolina's state Senate launched a legislative ambush – they took a bill related to Sharia law, of all things, amended it to include sweeping new restrictions on reproductive rights, and then rammed the bill through a day later on July 3rd.
With the bill pending in the GOP-led state House, all eyes quickly turned to rookie North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who swore as a candidate last year that he would leave the state's existing abortion laws alone. Would he keep his promise?
As of this morning, yes. McCrory said that without significant changes, he would veto House Bill 695. There's some ambiguity about the scope of the governor's commitment — he apparently wants clarifications on health and safety measures, so he's open to some new restrictions — but for now, the bill would not get his signature.
What's truly amazing is how state GOP lawmakers responded to the governor's comments.
Hours after Gov. Pat McCrory issued a veto threat for a controversial abortion bill, House Republicans — acting without public notice — took a bill about motorcycle safety and inserted abortion language.
The new bill — S353 — represents tweaks to the version that passed the Senate last week but still includes some of that version's contentious language. It calls for a physician to be present when the first drug in a chemical abortion is administered, as opposed to all drugs, as the version that passed the Senate last week would mandate.
Another major change from the Senate version: Abortion clinics would not be required to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. But the state Department of Health and Human Services would be authorized to apply those standards as it sees "applicable."
Got that? Republicans are so desperate to approve restrictions on reproductive rights, they whipped up changes to a bill on motorcycle safety and are plowing ahead. Melissa Reed, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Health Systems said in a statement, "It is a disgrace to North Carolina that legislators have again resorted to sneak attacks to move their anti-women's health agenda forward."
For the record, the legislative committee was made aware of the changes at 9:57 a.m. this morning — three minutes before it convened. Whether McCrory would veto this amended bill, and whether that veto could be overridden, remains to be seen.