Before you read any farther, let’s establish this first: abortion is a serious and contentious issue, and is certainly not the best venue for arguing for either Pro-Life or Pro-Choice.

That said, we have to wonder how the heck a North Carolina bill originally designed to protect motorcyclists turn into a law that could close 15 of the state’s 16 abortion clinics?

It all started March 19 when North Carolina Senator Kathy Harrington introduced SB353, a bill entitled “an act to increase penalties for unsafe movements by drivers that threaten the property and safety of motorcyclists”.

The bill, as originally written, would increase the penalty for drivers whose actions cause a motorcyclist to change lanes or run off the road, resulting in a crash causing more than $5000 of damage or serious injury. The bill would increase the minimum fine to $750 from $500 while adding the possibility of assessing traffic infraction points or getting a drivers license suspended for 30 days.

From a motorcycle safety aspect, it’s a sensible bill, though some might argue the penalties were not high enough. SB353 passed through State Senate on April 8 by a vote of 48-0 with just a small amendment to allow some leeway in the license suspension penalty.

The bill then landed in the hands of the House for further consideration. Three months later, the bill was re-written and given a new title:

An act to modify certain laws pertaining to abortion, to limit abortion coverage under health insurance plans offered under a healthy benefit exchange operating in North Carolina or offered by a county or municipality, to prohibit a person from performing or attempting to perform an abortion when the sex of the unborn child is a significant factor in seeking the abortion, to direct the Department of Health and Human Services to be suitable facilities for the performance of abortions, to amend the Women’s Right to Know Act, and to increase penalties for unsafe movements by drivers that threaten the property and safety of motorcyclists.

The 326-word motorcycle safety bill received another 2,160 words of legislation that had nothing to do with motorcycle safety. Instead, the new text required abortion clinics to adopt changes to make them comparable to out-patient surgical centers. Only one of the state’s 16 abortion clinics currently meet those standards, and most of the rest are more likely to close than make costly changes.

The bill would also ban abortions on the basis of the unborn baby’s gender, requires the presence of a doctor during abortions, restrict non-surgical abortions and bars coverage by insurance plans provided by local governments.

The amended bill passed two more readings, voted through by a 74-41 margin. Today, Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill, making it law in the state of North Carolina.

Pro-Life supporters say the law raises health and safety standards for women while Pro-Choice advocates are incensed, saying the law severely limits access to safe and legal abortions.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of abortion, one can’t help but notice the unusual way the abortion bill was tacked onto a motorcycle safety bill. Is motorcycle safety even a consideration in the minds of North Carolina lawmakers, or was it just a convenient vehicle for supporting another agenda?

[Source: North Carolina General Assembly]