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Informed Consent Law Leads To Higher Standards

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North Carolina’s informed consent for abortion law has led to higher standards for abortion providers, according to a new study released by researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The results of an examination of the 2011 Woman’s Right to Know Act (WRTK) on both women and abortionist lay to rest many of the objections raised by abortion proponents, who argued that the WRTK law would present significant obstacles to North Carolina women seeking abortions. Instead, the law seems to have had the intended consequence of holding abortion providers to higher standards of care in their dealings with abortion-minded women. The study, which was presented at the American Public Health Association Conference in New Orleans in November, involved in-person interviews with “31 abortion providers and clinic managers” about the impact of House Bill 854-Woman’s Right to Know Act.

According to the UNC-CH study findings, “Most [abortion] providers indicated that WRTK had not imposed a substantial burden on women. However, providers devoted significant labor and resources to minimizing the impact of WRTK on patients, including hiring additional staff and reassigning job duties, reorganizing clinic procedures, seeking legal counsel, and performing state-mandated counseling during non-business hours.” The study also found that abortion “[p]roviders in freestanding clinics that offered only abortion care experienced more difficulties complying with the law.”

Enacted by the General Assembly in 2011, the WRTK requires that women be provided with the following information at least 24 hours before receiving an abortion:

  • The name of the physician performing the abortion.
  • Information about the medical risks associated with having an abortion, including psychological risks, as well as the risks associated with carrying a pregnancy to term.
  • The probable gestational age of the unborn child.
  • The availability to view an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat of her child. (The State is currently appealing an injunction against the provision of the law that would require abortion providers to display and describe ultrasound images to all women seeking abortion in the state.)
  • If the abortionist does not have liability insurance for malpractice.
  • The name and location of a hospital within 30 miles that offers obstetrical or gynecological care, and if the abortionist has admitting privileges at the facility.
  • Information about the social and financial resources available, should she choose to carry her unborn child to term.

North Carolina Health News reports that one of the lead UNC-CH researchers on the study, Mara Buchbinder, told the audience at the conference that, “While [abortion providers] hated the law, they saw there was a value to turn the experience positive.”

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