Thursday, July 11, 2013 1:10 AM
McCrory threatens abortion bill veto
Governor tackles abortion, Moral Mondays, jobless issues in Wilson visit
By Janet Conner-Knox | Times Staff Writer
While Gov. Pat McCrory was in Wilson Wednesday morning to congratulate Wells Fargo for expanding its loan program to farmers, he also had some words of warning for legislators.
Unless significant changes and clarifications are made addressing his concerns, he would veto the existing abortion bill, HB 695, if it is passed by the House and Senate, he said.
MCCrory said there were some technical issues that were not addressed in this bill.
He said new regulations can’t deny access to women’s health care. They should provide safety and health care.
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the House had a draft of a bill that reflected some changes.
Under the Wednesday bill, the department is authorized to apply standards for surgery centers to standards for clinics to address on-site recovery, protect patient privacy and ensure patients with complications receive necessary medical attention "while not unduly restricting access.”
Physicians would still have to be physically present throughout the entire surgical abortion procedure and "in the same room as the patient” when she takes the first dose of a drug for a chemically-induced abortion such as RU-486. The department also will tell legislators by next spring what resources they need to adequately inspect clinics.
McCrory reiterated that he is "extremely pro-life” Wednesday, but said he is stepping on the toes of conservatives and those who are liberal also by pushing for changes in the bill.
"We specifically mentioned some changes – we believe in increasing some standards – we want to make sure some standards don’t overreach or deny access,” McCrory said in an interview with The Times after his breakfast with Wells Fargo executives and local farmers.
"We specifically mentioned some things we think can be done.”
McCrory said there were certain requirements, for example standards of hospitals, that he considered to be an overreach.
"And there were certain standards of what doctors can and cannot do that may have been an overreach,” McCrory said.
But he said he thinks there are workable solutions.
"My goal is the health and safety of the women and we’ve had some clinics that have been closed because they haven’t met the existing standards,” McCrory said. "I feel very passionately about these clinics meeting the current regulations and any new regulations are for the safety and health of women.”
McCrory said there are parts of the bill that are sound. He estimated 70 percent of the bill worked.
"You shouldn’t be able to have an abortion because you disagree with the gender of a baby – something like that is common sense,” McCrory said. "You want to relieve some health care workers who have religious reasons not to perform certain procedures – that they can step away without fear of loss of job.”
McCrory said he doesn’t know if legislators will override any potential veto of the bill.
"I hope to sign a bill, but the bill needs to be reasonable, sound and pragmatic and the major goal should protect the health and safety of women,” McCrory said.
McCrory said he is being critical of both the left and right in this instance.
"The left seems to think there needs to be no new regulations and everything is working fine. That’s not true,” McCrory points out. "The right, sometimes I think, is doing an overreach.”
The Senate has already passed the controversial abortion bill.
The bill that passed the Senate last week directed state health officials to create standards for abortion clinics "that are similar to those for the licensure of ambulatory surgical centers.” The bill also ordered that a doctor be "physically present” throughout an entire surgical abortion procedure and when a woman receives a chemically-induced abortion.
The House judiciary committee approved the substitute bill 10-5 that is designed to clarify expanded physician responsibilities and higher clinic standards.
The new bill contains other abortion-related measures that already passed the House this year. The measure would prohibit gender-selective abortions, curb abortion insurance coverage and expand the type of medical professionals that can conscientiously objection to participate in abortions.
McCrory said it was the fault of the federal government that North Carolina had to cut unemployment benefits by one third and also cut benefits paid from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.
Recently unemployment numbers for Wilson were reported at 13 percent.
McCrory said he needed to solve the unemployment insurance debt.
"So, President Obama, frankly, could have given us a waiver and we would have extended it,” McCrory said. "It was federal unemployment. What it did was not allow us to reduce our unemployment compensation equal to what South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee pays.”
McCrory said North Carolina paid the ninth highest unemployment rate in the nation and was bankrupting small businesses.
"We were $2.6 billion in debt,” McCrory said. "The president has not given me a waiver pass on the $2.6 billion that North Carolina owes.”
The previous governor and legislators borrowed $2.6 billion dollars – with no way to pay it back, McCrory said.
"I’m cutting up the credit card,” McCrory said. "You can’t live off a credit card. I’ve got to build up the economy. The one way you do that is get out of debt.”
But Alexandra Sirota, director of the budget and tax center for the non partisan nonprofit NC Policy Watch, said North Carolina’s unemployment debt was a non partisan decision made two decades ago.
"The reason for N.C. unemployment insurance debt was combination of policymakers from both parties giving tax cuts to employers in the 1990s when times were good,” Sirota said. "So that in 2000 for the first recession and around 2008 for the great recession, the trust fund balance was not able to deal with the historic job loss of the great recession.”
Sirota said North Carolina didn’t receive the waiver from the federal government because they didn’t follow the law to get the waiver like other states did.
"The states that got the waiver set their date for January 2014, not July 2013,” Sirota said.
And Sirota said North Carolina’s unemployment policies were unprecedented in the state.
"States like Arkansas took a maximum cut from $457 to $451,” Sirota said. "North Carolina went from $525 to $350.”
Sirota said she is concerned that people who are unemployed are paying most of the unemployment debt.
"We know that unemployment taxes increased to less than one percent of business costs,” Sirota said. "To say that hiring by small businesses is based on that one percent increase is not sound.”
Sirota said the backlash for the communities in North Carolina in the wake of the unemployment cuts could be great.
"Shorter weeks and less unemployment dollar benefits will mean workers will have trouble paying utility bills, house payments whether they are mortgages or rent,” Sirota said. "Towns like Wilson have not seen job growth.”
Sirota said the job of unemployment benefits is to keep people engaged in the labor force.
"It is to stick with people and provide a moderate general support until you can get that job,” Sirota said.
McCrory said he has come out to hear what protesters are not happy about on the Moral Monday protests.
"I go out in the crowd all of the time,” McCrory said. "Frankly, yesterday I went out and talked to several of them and they were not very respectful. They did not represent the majority of those who call themselves moral by cussing me out. But that’s the way things go some times.”
Rob Schofield, of N.C. Watch Policy, said if McCrory has been coming to Moral Mondays he has done it in disguise and has avoided all media attention.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, said he has yet to see McCrory at any of the events either.
McCrory said he can identify with protesters because when he was mayor he also came to Raleigh at one point to protest.
He said on the occasion he protested he did not break the law as some Moral Monday protesters do.
"But I welcome, I welcome protesters,” McCrory said. "What I don’t accept is when they break the law.”
McCrory said the group has 30 to 40 issues, and he said there are many groups that come to the event each week, but he doesn’t accept protesters blocking democratic business.
"I don’t agree with them breaking the law and taking up valuable resources in that area to have to take them to jail,” McCrory said.
Schofield said he invites McCrory to come talk with them on Mondays.
"If he really wants to interact with this growing movement and its many legitimate concerns, he should come up to the podium and speak,” Schofield said. "Better yet, he should sit down and engage with its leaders in real and meaningful dialogue and condemn conservative groups – one funded by his budget director – that have printed scurrilous attacks accusing the Moral Monday leaders of corruption and theft.”
Barber said it is the governor who is disrespectful to the growing number of protesters assembled each Monday to have their voices heard.
"It seems that the governor is saying I’m hurting the poor and sick and disabled by denying Medicaid, but I’m doing it politely,” Barber said in a statement to the Times. "I’m snatching the only money unemployed people have away from them, but I’m doing it politely. I’m raising taxes on the working poor politely. I’m signing a bill that will hurt public education and allow racism in the court system, but since I’m doing it politely you should only criticize me politely.”
Barber said he does not personally condone cursing at anyone.
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