Former North Carolina State Representative, Paul “Skip” Stam, talks about the current status of pro-life laws and policies in our state.
INTRODUCTION: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. Our guest today is former North Carolina State Representative Paul “Skip” Stam, an attorney who lives in Apex, North Carolina. Skip recently completed 16 years of service in the North Carolina State House, during which time he held a variety of leadership positions, including most recently, Speaker Pro Tempore. Not only has Skip been a stalwart defender of life and liberty in the State Legislature and in the courts throughout his legal career, but he is also a personal friend and a great ally of the North Carolina Family Policy Council.
As part of our emphasis this month on the sanctity of human life, we are excited to welcome Skip to the program today to discuss the current status of pro-life laws and policies in our state.
Skip Stam, welcome to Family Policy Matters! As always, it’s great to have you back on the show!
SKIP STAM: Glad to be here.
JOHN RUSTIN: Skip, January 23rd marked the 44th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade that essentially legalized abortion across our nation. How did Roe v. Wade affect North Carolina’s abortion laws at that time?
SKIP STAM: North Carolina and Colorado were two states that had sort of legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade, but with some restrictions, and Roe v. Wade, for all intents and purposes, eliminated all restrictions on abortion.
JOHN RUSTIN: Skip, throughout your years in the General Assembly, you have been one of the strongest proponents of pro-life legislation that we’ve had the privilege of working with. We are so grateful for you and your many years of service both inside and outside of the state legislature. During this time, we have often gathered to discuss pro-life initiatives, and you have always been very focused on evaluating these proposals based on a very practical measure, and that is: How many lives would be saved if a specific bill is enacted into law? While this may seem like a fairly simple approach, it really has been an incredibly effective tool in making sure that pro-life legislation that is pursued in the North Carolina General Assembly will really make a difference once it is enacted. Why has this been so important to you to remain as focused as you have been on saving lives over the years?
SKIP STAM: John, in addition to the time it takes to pass a bill—which can be hundreds of hours—there’s a certain tolerance on any issue to pass a certain number of bills in any given session. So, if you use up your quota on bills that don’t have any practical effect, you are causing unborn children to die unnecessarily. That’s the straight way of putting it. So amongst other criteria, I’ve always thought, ‘Will this bill actually save the lives of innocent, unborn children?’ to be a very important question.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s a helpful explanation. Now Skip, North Carolina has made huge strides in protecting the unborn and their mothers in both the legislative arena and also in the courts over the last 20 years. Which pro-life initiatives do you believe have made the most difference and which ones are you most proud of that you have had the opportunity to participate in?
SKIP STAM: The Parental Consent Law that was passed in 1995 and was upheld in the courts has stopped—I would have to say—about 2,000 abortions a year in teenagers. They end up either not getting pregnant in the first place because they don’t want their parents told, or they don’t have the abortion. I’m very proud of that though because we worked on that, we helped support it in the federal courts when it was challenged.
The cut-off of almost all funding for abortion has been a 43-year project and that has been almost complete. And then of course, Women’s Right to Know that passed in 2011 and that was strengthened in 2013, strengthened again in 2015 by going to a 72-hour waiting period, which is three days, has been the thing that has saved the most innocent lives. So those three would be the three most important. We all look for the day when you can actually say, “No, we’re not going to treat abortion like a medical procedure; We’re going to treat it like an act like what it is, you know the taking of a human life.”
JOHN RUSTIN: Skip, we are so grateful to you and to your leadership over the years because you have been so instrumental in the enactment and the passage of those important pieces of legislation and many others. I think it is fair to divide pro-life policies into a few different categories: funding, health, and respect, and I’ll explain those a little bit, but you just touched on the first of those categories which is funding. What is the current status of public funding for abortions in North Carolina today and what kind of public funding is available for mothers who experience an unplanned pregnancy but who decide to seek alternatives to abortion and carry that child to term?
SKIP STAM: John, the funding issue has been a process. In 1978, we got a limit on how much state money would be spent for medically unnecessary abortions. In 1981, we got it through the courts, stopping the counties from doing it. In the mid-90s, we got a reduction in the state abortion fund for welfare, but that did not touch the state health plan or insurance policies through the exchanges. So in the last four years, we’ve been able to cut out almost all abortions in the state health plan, which covers about 800,000 North Carolinians. Now for help for women facing unplanned pregnancies, there’s a lot of resources that have been there for a while through the Department of Health and Human Services through Medicaid. Just recently, we were able to get about $300,000 a year to 28 different pregnancy care resource centers and they get some state money for certain of the services they offer. And of course, Choose Life license plates. A portion of those plate costs go to help pregnancy resource centers.
JOHN RUSTIN: Skip, I would argue that some of the greatest gains made in state-level pro-life policy have been in the area of health as well, both from an educational and a healthcare standpoint. Tell us briefly about the current state requirements for school curricula related to sexual health education and also parental consent as it relates to abortion.
SKIP STAM: I believe it was in 2013 that we were able to require in the curriculum for sex ed that the students be taught, which is true, that an induced abortion is a big indicator for future problems with pre-term birth, extremely low birth rate, so that in your subsequent pregnancy you’re going to have a much higher risk of those very serious conditions, which for example could lead to cerebral palsy, and that’s in the curriculum today in the public schools. Parental consent: We made a big stride in that recently. For years, the courts had held that a 15-year-old/16-year-old, could forge her parent’s consent and if they took that to the abortionist that was sufficient parental consent. But with our Informed Consent law—that became law in 2011—we had a provision that not only was the teenager required to give actual written consent but also the parent who has given the written consent.
JOHN RUSTIN: What about the health standards for abortion clinics and abortion doctors in North Carolina?
SKIP STAM: I wish I could give you better news on that. There have been some strides in that with the 2013 legislation, but it didn’t go very far. It did require annual inspections and there were some other requirements and we actually, in 2015, required that an abortionist have some training in abortion. Before that, an abortion could be carried out by a podiatrist or a dermatologist and would not have violated the law. So, that was an improvement. But as a matter of fact in my opinion, the abortionists are not held to the same standard of care because, I’ll just give you one example: There’s lots and lots of studies in academic periodicals that a prior abortion greatly increases the risk of pre-term birth, extremely birth weight, which, as I said before, leads to all sorts of complications including cerebral palsy. Do the abortionists tell about that? No, no. Matter of fact, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, they have on their website today that there are no problems in future pregnancies. No problems! In the 2011 legislation, we have lots of remedies for a woman who are harmed by that, but we have not—understandably—had a lot of women come forward to say, ‘I was misinformed and would like lots of damages against the abortion clinic.’ But the law is there and they can do it if they feel they were misinformed by the abortionist.
JOHN RUSTIN: Finally Skip, the third category that I wanted to talk about is respect and there are two general perspectives here: One is respect for the unborn child, even after an abortion is performed. I know the legislature has taken some action regarding that. As well as respect for individuals, particularly health care providers, who object to participating in abortion. Tell us about the success NC lawmakers have had in both of these areas.
SKIP STAM: Some good success in, there were some conscience protections written into the 1973 law, but it was full of loopholes that were tightened up quite a bit in the 2011, 2013, 2015 sessions so that today any healthcare provider can refuse to perform an abortion or assist in an abortion without much blowback. We’ve also had a couple of bills, for example, the Choose Life license plates, in addition to raising a little bit of money for the pregnancy resource centers, also proclaims on your car that you respect life. And as people see thousands of those around the state, they’ll start thinking, ‘Hey, that might be a kid in there.’ So, it’s a gradual process but I think we’re making progress on seeing that. Actually, I think the real progress there is by the fact that you can now see on your television a video, these run periodically, of the unborn child from conception through birth. And as people see that in real-life, as children see it, as teenagers see it, we’re seeing a much greater respect for this child who used to be invisible. It’s now very visible in color, in 3-D, in motion, and I think that’s what’s gonna to cause the greatest respect for this child.
JOHN RUSTIN: Skip, we’ve also seen the legislature take action on the remains of unborn children after abortion, which is just an awful situation, but of course a series of videos in the last year brought to light what Planned Parenthood and a number of other abortion providers have done, which is to sell the remains, the body parts of aborted children. And the General Assembly took some action on that legislation, did they not?
SKIP STAM: In 2015, prohibited—actually made it a crime—to sell the remains of an unborn child resulting from an induced abortion. Now this doesn’t apply to a miscarriage but to an induced abortion. But still, they’re using them around the country—the remains—and you’ll hear a lot about that from a special committee set up by Congress that’s investigating these activities. And, matter of fact, just last month, there was a criminal referral by this special committee of the Congress, to various law enforcement agencies.
JOHN RUSTIN: We’ll continue to watch that with great expectation as well and encourage the Congress and continue to pray that Congress will take some swift action to address those just really grizzly circumstances that those videos brought to light so well.
With that, Skip Stam, unfortunately we’re just about out of time for this week, but as we close, I wanted to thank you so much for being with us on Family Policy Matters, for your many years of service both in the North Carolina General Assembly and outside the General Assembly. I’m sure your work in the realm of pro-life initiatives, legislation and valuing the sanctity of human life will continue for many years to come. But you have been a true champion of life and liberty. You’ve been a wonderful outlying partner of the North Carolina Family Policy Council and we’re so grateful for all of your many years of service and look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.
SKIP STAM: Thanks John and without the Family Policy Council, not a lot would get done on that.
JOHN RUSTIN: Thank you so much.
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