This spring, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill that includes some significant pro-life measures, most notably limiting most abortions in North Carolina to twelve weeks gestation. This process has been riddled with controversy and misinformation, but despite what some detractors are saying, this bill will truly protect women, children, and families.
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Senator Joyce Krawiec and Representative Kristin Baker (who is also a medical doctor) to discuss North Carolina’s newest pro-life law and the impacts it is expected to have.
You can learn more about the pro-life law here.
This episode is a part of a series highlighting the pro-life movement in North Carolina. Tune in each week to learn more!
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. This summer marks one year since the US Supreme Court reversed its nearly 50 year old Roe v Wade decision that had legalized abortion on demand nationwide. We’re excited to bring you a series of interviews with North Carolinians who represent the many facets of the pro life movement here in our state. Today we’re speaking with State Senator Joyce Krawiec and State Representative Kristin Baker, two lawmakers who were instrumental in ushering in a life saving law in North Carolina entitled SB 20—Care for Women, Children, and Families Act, a law that limits abortion to 12 weeks in our state. We’re also joined by NC Family legal counsel, Jere Royall. This episode is part two of a two part series, so make sure to listen to last week’s episode for more information. Dr. Baker, there is an exception built into the law for life limiting anomaly up to 24 weeks, however, there’s a prohibition on abortions of babies likely to have Down syndrome. As a physician, what was some of the discussions surrounding the inclusion of this exception?
REP. KRISTIN BAKER: It’s a great question. And so just as a little bit of context, I was one of the primary sponsors on a bill last session that prevented abortion for the issue of Down syndrome, gender, or race. So that bill was one that I fought hard for last session, and so I was really pleased to have included this session. What we know about Down syndrome is that the ability of these people born with that chromosomal disorder to have not only a productive life, but a joyful life, has been very well demonstrated. Unfortunately, many people still hear the diagnosis of Down Syndrome and think that it is an impending doom. And so we work to change that narrative and to inform people of the fact that that is not the case, and had a number of families and people with Down syndrome come to speak with us.
So that being said, we wanted to make sure that in discussions people recognize that we don’t want to practice eugenics, we don’t want to choose who deserves to live and who does not deserve to live, and so that was kind of the focus of that.
So then fast forward to your question now, you know, what about this exception and this bill for life limiting fetal anomalies. And what I will tell you is that those diagnoses, again, like Trisomy 18, we need to be mindful of the limits of our medical abilities when we discuss these issues. So life limiting fetal anomalies are those that are essentially incompatible with life.
The reason we chose the wording of life limiting is because babies born with those chromosomal disorders will sometimes live a few hours, sometimes even a few weeks. And so that’s why we didn’t say it’s incompatible with life, because there may be some hours or weeks and which can, of course, be very much a blessing, a time of opportunity and closure. But at the same time, they are actually very different than a diagnosis of Down syndrome. In those cases, those people live essentially full lifespans. So that’s the distinction there. And it’s a soul wrenching distinction, quite frankly, in that when a parent receives that diagnosis of that chromosomal anomaly, there’s a recognition that their dreams of that child living for any extended period of time have now vanished. At the same time, a number of people would want to carry that baby to term.
So those are the things we struggled with. And again, even as you mentioned earlier, you know, a number of people in our caucus would prefer to have passed a heartbeat bill or a six week bill, a number of people would not have put in the exception for life limiting fetal anomaly, recognizing that again, all those lives have God’s fingerprint on it. Quite frankly, this is what’s been the challenge of being in the legislature is recognizing that we can either get something passed, you know, and go with a higher yield and move toward our ultimate goals or we cannot get something passed and so we have to work with the people that are currently here and also with what we’re representing for our citizens and right now, our citizens told us they’re not comfortable with a heartbeat bill. They were much more comfortable with a 12 week bill. So again, I think that’s the trick of being in the legislature is trying to represent your constituents while struggling with your own conscience and morality.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Let’s talk a little bit about North Carolina’s history of emphasizing informed consent for mothers. Does the law build on that as well as the high standards for abortion clinics that we’ve historically seen in North Carolina?
REP. KRISTIN BAKER: Absolutely, yes. And you know, I think that’s what’s so important is that, again, we recognize how difficult this is when a woman is pregnant with an unwanted pregnancy. And so the opportunity to have sufficient information as she’s making this exceedingly difficult decision and just trying to incorporate this news into her life. And so one of the things that’s really important in this bill is the opportunity for an ultrasound and in the past that was essentially waived, or not required in the way that we’re doing it in this bill. And it’s so important, because opponents of this bill will say, “Well, gosh, you know, that’s causing the woman trauma to have to see her baby.” Well, the reality is it is a baby, and how much more traumatic is it to only realize that in retrospect? That’s the thing that I’ve told people, you know, for those of us who are Christians, it’s easy to support trying to prevent abortion. For those who are not Christians, the thing that I would really put forward is that regardless of your faith, when a woman has an abortion, that is a traumatic event. So I think unfortunately, sometimes people feel that, well, if you get rid of the baby, you get rid of the trauma. And in fact, that’s not the case, and some of our most ardent abortion opponents are the ones who have gone through that because they know that you’re only building on that trauma.
And so as a psychiatrist, that’s something that I’ve seen time and again, is, you know, this wish to sort of erase it. And the reality is, that’s not therapeutic. And I had one doctor say, “You know, last time I checked, treatment for pregnancy and post traumatic stress is not an abortion.”
So I think those are the things that we recognize. And so we want to equip women on the front end. Here’s the ultrasound, you know, here’s what we’re dealing with, and then help her walk through mastering the reality of the situation. And then the opportunities as she’s trying to make her decision.
And then in terms of the abortion clinics, we want to make sure, particularly with these exceptions that we have for rape and incest and for life limiting fetal anomalies, I think it’s really important to recognize that some of those, particularly with the diagnosis of a life limiting fetal anomaly, sometimes that happens fairly late in pregnancy. And those gestations, those babies can be of a fairly significant size. And the risk to the mother is very high if those centers are not equipped, consistent with a surgical center. And so that’s something we wanted to make sure would happen. And we need to make sure that DHHS not only evaluates those centers, which has been required in the past, but then actually goes in to determine whether they have sufficiency for licensure each and every year. Again, that is to protect the woman.
I think the other thing that this bill changes is making sure that when we do those ultrasounds, we make sure that the baby is in the uterus and that there is not an ectopic pregnancy in the tubes, which can be fatal if a woman is trying to medicate using abortion inducing medication at home. And so again, we’re just really looking to protect the life of the mother and the life of the baby.
But these women who don’t get ultrasounds can have the misperception that they have an intrauterine pregnancy when in fact they have an ectopic pregnancy that can be life threatening for the mother. It’s very important that the woman have a visit with a doctor on the front end and then three days later as well. With those medications that induce abortions, they can sometimes be incomplete, and then you can have tissue remaining, which can cause more problems as well. And so while again, you know, opposition has said, “You’re making this more burdensome on the woman,” again, the key here is not attempting to burden the woman but in fact, attempting to make sure she gets standard medical care to prevent any additional problems. Again, we recognize and acknowledge this whole situation is difficult no matter what happens. But if we can give her a good healthy standard of care, that is going to ultimately mitigate the level of trauma she’s experiencing.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thank you so much for all that great explanation. There’s been so many things said about this in the news media that really are not accurate, or at least don’t explain everything about the bill and the law. Do you have some parting words for women and men who will be affected by this new law?
REP. KRISTIN BAKER: Absolutely. And Traci, you raise a really good point, men are affected by this as well. And so yes, I appreciate that. I think one of the misconceptions is that this interferes with the doctor-patient relationship. And I would certainly want your listeners to recognize that, in fact, this bill goes quite a distance to protect the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship, and to equip the woman in her discussions with a doctor, then the woman and her partner should that be desired. And to that point, the only two physicians in the entire North Carolina legislature, Dr. Reeder and I, have supported this bill. So I would say for your listeners, this bill balances protecting the life of the unborn with a woman’s need for life saving care, and it protects the integrity, like I said, of the doctor-patient relationship. It also represents a consensus position of North Carolina’s citizens. The vast majority of them support limitations to abortion after 12 weeks. And importantly, and I think this is really key, it provides the pregnant woman with broad resources, and a significant knowledge base to equip her in finding a path forward for her and for her unborn child.
So I know you’ve covered the number of financial provisions for child care, for maternity and paternity leave, for foster care, kinship care, for contraception, and for opportunities to help mothers and fathers complete community college. And so those are some of the things that I’m referencing, when I say, you know, we’re trying to equip her in finding a path forward and saying, we’re going to be here alongside you. We understand this is a difficult journey, and we want to keep walking with you.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Senator Krawiec, with all the hype and the hysteria that has surrounded discussion about this bill, at least out in the in the media, do you have a word that you can leave for women and men who will be affected by this law?
SEN. JOYCE KRAWIEC: Well I’m just happy to have been a part of it. I think it’s going to make a tremendous difference in so many lives, because now men and women will have the opportunity to keep their babies with all of the resources that we also put into the bill. It changes everything. It changes everything. It changes the future for those, those to be families to be whole families. And I’m just really excited about it and happy that we were able to get it done and appreciate the help of everyone who was a part of it.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Senator Joyce Krawiec and Representative Kristin Baker, thank you so much for being such strong pro life voices in the North Carolina General Assembly. And of course the same to you, Jere Royall, with the North Carolina Family Policy Council. Thank you all for being with us on Family Policy Matters.
– END –