Scores of NC physicians, nurses, clinicians, and counselors say bill racing through state House would foster “environment of fear, stigma, and interrogation”
[Editor’s note: Republicans in the North Carolina House and Senate are again advancing legislation to restrict abortion access. As Policy Watch has reported here and here, two committees in the House of Representatives have already given approval to a proposal that would force physicians to affirm that their patents’ reasons for choosing an abortion are not on a proscribed list. Meanwhile, a Senate committee this morning advanced a version of legislation known as the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” that failed to become law in 2019.
The following open letter from a group 99 North Carolina health care professionals was delivered to House leaders on Monday in response to the first proposal.]
Speaker Tim Moore
Democratic Leader Robert T. Reives, II
North Carolina General Assembly
Legislative Building 16 West Jones Street
Raleigh, N.C. 27601
Dear Speaker Moore and Democratic Leader Reives, II:
As health care professionals committed to ensuring all patients can access the full range of comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion, we write to express our strong opposition to H.B.453, which would ban abortion based on the reason behind a person’s decision to terminate their pregnancy.
H.B.453 would replace open, honest conversations between patients and their clinicians with an environment of fear, stigma, and interrogation. It would deny clinicians the ability to share necessary information with patients about their health and their medical options and put patients in the untenable position of withholding questions and information from their health care provider. This bill is not about promoting equality and ending discrimination, but about inappropriately inserting politics into the patient-clinician relationship.
H.B.453 would add yet another harmful layer to our state’s “sex-selective” abortion ban, a law based on the disingenuous claim that it would prevent gender-based discrimination. The consequences of legislation grounded in anti-immigration sentiments and stigma against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people, as this bill is, would be grave. We are concerned that it could discourage our AAPI patients from accessing the necessary medical care they need out of fear of racial profiling. It is disingenuous for the North Carolina legislature to argue that preventing gender-based discrimination is its purpose when it’s clear the primary motive for this provision is denying access to abortion.
This bill would also ban abortion care based on the false premise that people of color, particularly Black and Latinx people, seek abortions on the basis of race. These bans perpetuate an oppressive narrative that people of color cannot be trusted to make their own reproductive health decisions. H.B.453 would do nothing to address the very real structural racism that Black and Brown parents and their children face, including the racialized violence, harassment, and reproductive coercion.
Additionally, H.B.453 would ban abortion care based on the potential of a Down syndrome diagnosis. In our experience caring for patients, many people feel strongly about continuing their pregnancy following a diagnosis of Down syndrome or another disability. And many, including those who ultimately decide to continue their pregnancies, want to discuss all of their options, from the resources available to raise a child with a disability to pregnancy termination. Our role as health care providers is to give our patients information and to answer all questions with openness, compassion, and honesty. Under this bill, taking a medical history or family medical history, even in cases where a genetic condition could impact the health of a patient or their pregnancy, would become fraught.
As health care professionals, we strongly support the right of people with disabilities to live full and dignified lives, and advocate for policies that ensure people living with disabilities and their families have access to the resources they need to thrive. We urge the North Carolina legislature to focus their attention on creating supportive policies that address the diverse and very real needs of North Carolinians living with disabilities, rather than inserting fear into our exam rooms at a time when patients need openness and trust.
Medical organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Physicians for Reproductive Health strongly oppose bans like H.B.453, that interfere with honest, open, trusting communication between providers and their patients. No matter what decision a person may make about their pregnancy, all patients must be fully informed, cared for, and supported through their decision-making process. H.B.453 would deny North Carolinians these open, honest conversations and drive a wedge between our patients and their trusted health care professionals.
We know that we best serve our patients when we give them the information and tools that allow them to make the best decisions for their health and well-being. When making a decision about pregnancy, patients need the expertise and care of skilled clinicians they can trust – not politics.
We strongly urge you to oppose H.B.453.
99 North Carolina physicians, nurses, clinicians, and counselors