Updated: The state House on Thursday passed the sweeping bill that its backers say will make abortion clinics safer but that opponents contend is meant to put them out of business.
After a three-hour hearing, the vote was 74 to 41. House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican from Mecklenburg County who is a candidate for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate, cast a vote in favor of the bill.
House Democrats decided not to offer any amendments to the bill, deciding instead to fight it through their arguments on the floor.
Republican backers of the legislation stood by their primary argument that the bill is about making abortions safe for women. Democrats counter that it is really about closing down abortion clinics by making it too expensive for them to upgrade to new rules and regulations.
Voices and emotions began to rise as the debate wore on, prompting House Speaker Thom Tillis to repeatedly warn legislators to confine their remarks to the bill and not broader social issues.
“Don’t tell me it’s not about health and safety – that’s exactly what it’s about,” said Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican from Mt. Airy. “I’m sorry if you don’t believe it, but that’s the truth.”
The GOP cited records of problems in the state’s abortion clinics in recent years, including repeated issues at the same clinics.
“There’s a blatant disregard for standards,” said Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, a Republican from Charlotte.
Rep. Rick Glazier, a Democrat from Fayetteville, said it was certain that if the bill becomes law it will be immediately challenged in a lawsuit. He said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling has held that state’s cannot impose undue burdens on the constitutional right to have an abortion.
Rep. Nathan Baskerville, a Democrat from Henderson, chided the GOP for its “big-government power grab.”
“We’re being tutored by the Republican majority about what big government really looks like,” he said.