Faced with a proposed anti-choice measure that North Carolina Republicans are currently attempting to rush through the legislature, clinics in the state are bracing for new regulations. But North Carolina’s Planned Parenthood clinics want to send a clear message to anti-abortion lawmakers. Even if the harsh legislation — which is currently stalled in the Senate — ends up becoming law, their health centers aren’t going anywhere.
The proposed bill would impose unnecessary regulations on abortion providers that will require them to make expensive updates to their facilities — often, renovations like widening hallways and installing new air conditioning systems. The measure is specifically designed to drive abortion clinics out of business. But Planned Parenthood, which operates four abortion clinics in the state, has vowed to stay open no matter what kinds of restrictions the legislature enacts. One of its clinics doesn’t currently meet the proposed standards and would have to spend significant amounts of money to renovate its building — and the organization will figure out a way to raise the funds to do so.
“Planned Parenthood will be here for our patients no matter what,” Planned Parenthood’s vice president for public affairs, Melissa Reed, said. “Our option would be we’d have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to meet those guidelines, and that’s what we’ll do. We’ll reach out to make sure we meet those standards but it’s not an easy thing to do.”
The North Carolina legislature originally attempted to tighten rules on abortion clinics by tacking an amendment onto an anti-Sharia measure. After Gov. Pat McCrory (R) threatened to veto that bill, they tried a different route. House Republicans softened the language slightly and added it to yet another unrelated measure, a proposal on motorcycle safety. But even though the new motorcycle bill isn’t as stringent as the original anti-abortion proposal, it would still require abortion clinics to meet all of the same standards as surgical facilities.
“If those restrictions were put upon us, it would be hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with the ambulatory surgical center standards,” Reed explained. She noted that many of the standards for surgical centers — which can involve ensuring a certain number of spaces in the parking lot or building additional rooms with certain dimensions — “really have nothing to do with patient safety.”
Medical professionals agree. Earlier this week, two leading doctors’ groups in North Carolina came out against the proposed abortion restrictions, saying they’re simply a politically-motivated effort to come between a woman and her doctor. “Get out of our exam rooms,” the coalitions of OB-GYNs wrote in a statement. “Passage of these bills, which are not based on science, will have a detrimental effect on the health of women in North Carolina.”
Even if North Carolina’s Planned Parenthood clinics will be able to raise enough money to comply with the potential new standards, many other clinics aren’t so lucky. In Virginia, where similar restrictions were recently enacted, the state’s busiest abortion clinic can’t afford to stay in business and will be forced to close its door. In Texas, the vast majority of the state’s abortion providers say they’ll likely have to shut down because they won’t be able to pay for the required renovations under a similar new law. Just this week, Planned Parenthood’s Texas affiliate announced it will have to close three of its clinics in the Lone Star State.