RALEIGH, WAKE COUNTY - Senate Republicans have given their final approval to legislation requiring additional rules surrounding abortions in North Carolina, even as hundreds of protesters against the bill watched from the gallery.
The Senate voted 29-12 Wednesday for the measure that would direct regulators to change abortion clinic rules so they're similar to those for ambulatory surgery centers.
The bill would:
-Allow any health care provider, not just doctors and nurses, to opt out of providing abortion-related services.
-Prohibit city and county health plans from offering abortion coverage to state employees except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother's life.
-Require doctors to remain in the room for the entire abortion procedure, whether surgical or medical.
-Prohibit gender-selective abortions
GOP legislators backing the bill say the measure will make abortion procedures safer for women and bring clinics in line with other medical facilities.
Bartolow Spano protests every week at the Crist Clinic for Women in Jacksonville. He says the bill is a step in the right direction, but isn't going far enough.
"Stop abortion now, so that this child can have the life that our mothers gave us," Spano said. "There are places where the mother can share her child when it's born with other people. She doesn't have to have the feeling of misery of having to raise a child to be reminded of what caused it to happen."
Carolyn Bryan, chairwoman of the Onslow County Democratic Party, says it's an attack on women's rights.
"To come in and tell you what you can do with your body -- that's not going to go," Bryan said. "No, nobody wants to hurt a child, but we don't know what situation an individual may be in."
The bill would still need House approval, which couldn't happen until at least next week.