NC House approves bill banning abortions based on race or Down syndrome

Tray Ling

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would bar physicians from performing abortions based on race or the presence of Down syndrome. After a 67-42 vote, the bill now goes to the Senate. “This is not a bill on abortion in general. […]

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would bar physicians from performing abortions based on race or the presence of Down syndrome.

After a 67-42 vote, the bill now goes to the Senate.

“This is not a bill on abortion in general. I want to make that clear. This is about non-discrimination,” said Rep. Kristin Baker (R-Cabarrus).

House Bill 453 would require a physician to attest to the state that a woman seeking an abortion did not do so because of the presumed race of the fetus or diagnosis of Down syndrome.

They would have to pay damages for violating the law.

The General Assembly previously passed a law banning abortions based on sex.

Dory MacMillan, a spokeswoman for Gov. Roy Cooper (D), did not say if the governor would veto the bill but wrote in an email, “Women should have access to comprehensive health care and difficult medical decisions should be between a woman and her doctor, without politicians trying to get in the exam room with them.”

Six Democrats joined with the Republicans in voting in favor of the bill.

The Associated Press reported a federal court in Tennessee recently upheld a similar law, and a federal appeals court reversed decisions blocking a law in Ohio.

“When it comes to this issue, which is definitely a complicated issued, that children are not aborted because of conditions like this. And, this is legislation that’s been upheld in other states,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R).

Earlier this week, Dr. Jonas Swartz, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Duke spoke against the bill, saying he’s never had a patient request an abortion based on race and worried passing the bill would further stigmatize patients.

“Abortion is a personal choice between a pregnant person and their doctor, and the state should refrain from imposing on patients’ decisions,” he said. “I want to provide safe, non-judgmental and high-quality care. This bill would make it harder to have open and honest conversations with my patients.”

Separately, a Senate committee took up and approved a bill Thursday that would require doctors to care for a baby that survives an attempted abortion. Click here to view Senate Bill 405 – the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

The Abortion Survivors Protection Act is similar to a bill Cooper vetoed two years ago.

Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Davie) said a difference in the latest version of the bill is that it reduces the penalty for doctors who violate it from a felony to a misdemeanor.

“We don’t know how many of these births occur. Doctors aren’t going to report them. Mothers aren’t going to report them,” said Krawiec.

When Cooper vetoed the Born Alive bill in 2019, he wrote, “Laws already protect newborn babies and this bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients. This needless legislation would criminalize doctors and other healthcare providers for a practice that simply does not exist.”

The Legislature tried to override Cooper’s veto of the bill, securing enough votes in the Senate but not enough in the House.

Moore said Thursday that Republicans plan to pass the Born Alive bill again this session, sending it to Cooper once more.

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