CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Abortion rights groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood have complained that a flurry of bills in the North Carolina legislature sharply restricting abortion was a “sneak attack.” Now, leading doctors say OB/GYNs were caught flat-footed as well.
“We were blindsided just like everybody else,” said Dr. John Albert, an OB/GYN and past president of the North Carolina Obstetrical and Gynecological Society. “And we really want the legislatures and the government to stay out of the exam room.”
Doctors groups did not testify when the anti-abortion bill was debated in committee. But from the floor of the state House of Representatives, lawmakers made repeated statements about the risks of abortion.
“People are dying in abortion clinics,” said Rep. Ruth Samuelson of Mecklenburg County in the July 11 floor debate. “Maybe they’re not dying in abortion clinics in North Carolina, but do we really want one person to die before we raise the standard?”
“I think it’s an emotional statement if you look at the bare facts,” said Dr. Frank Harrison, a long-time Charlotte OB/GYN. “I have been in this state practicing now for 40 years and I have yet to see a woman die in an abortion clinic.”
Rep. Paul Stam of Wake County referenced the death of a woman following an abortion in North Carolina more than 20 years ago. When asked for any examples in the last three to five years, Rep. Stam replied, “You wouldn’t know because they go to other places to die.”
“I don’t think they die at home and we don’t hear about it,” said Dr. Octavia Cannon, a Charlotte OB/GYN. “Because certainly if (women) were to die, we would hear about it.”
Dr. Cannon said the state collects statistics of maternal mortality which measure the numbers and rate of women who die following childbirth or abortion. Dr. Cannon supports tighter regulation of abortion clinics but disagrees with lawmakers rush to pass legislation.
“There do need to be some changes made but should we let the NC Medical Society of the Medical Board be the ones to handle that?” she asked.
Leaders of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists editorialized against the anti-abortion bills in the Charlotte Observer this week. But with the legislature hurtling toward adjournment next week, most lawmakers seem to have made up their minds without getting a second opinion from the state’s leading doctors.