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North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services has unveiled a wave of proposed rule changes related to abortion in response to the General Assembly’s directive to increase safety provisions at women’s clinics across the state.

At the same time, a major abortion provider is preparing to open a new clinic in Asheville, six months after the city’s last clinic — the only abortion provider in Western North Carolina — was voluntarily shuttered.

The proposed rules, published on Monday, can be read below. They were generated after a controversial 2013 law authorized DHHS to draft new requirements for abortion providers — predominantly mandating that they be held to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

“These rules seek to provide improvements in the care and safety of women who undergo abortion procedures,” DHHS said on its website.

They “were drafted upon the recommendation of a stakeholder committee consisting of certified abortion clinic representatives, physicians, professional licensing agencies, the public and DHHS staff,” the department added. “The rule language sets standards by which clinics shall address the on-site recovery phase of patient care, protect patient privacy, provide quality assurance, and ensure that patients with complications receive the necessary medical attention, while not unduly restricting access.”

Melissa Reed, vice president of public affairs for Raleigh-based Planned Parenthood Health Systems, said that the batch of proposed rules came as no surprise to abortion providers and looks acceptable to her organization.

“Where they stand right now, we think we’re pretty pleased,” Reed said of the proposed rules.

“We have reviewed them, and, at first blush, these regulations seem to be very much focused on health, safety and not shutting down access to safe and legal abortion care,” she told Carolina Public Press. “DHHS did include a Planned Parenthood provider as a women’s health expert in the design of the procedures, so we were really pleased to have input in that process.”

The rules could be finalized and enacted as soon as April 1, 2015.

For the time being, DHHS officials will be taking and reviewing public comment on the proposed measures from now until Jan. 30. (See this site for instructions on how to comment, as well as public hearing information.)

Asheville, without an abortion provider since July, could have one early next year

Last July, the only women’s clinic that provided abortions in Western North Carolina, Femcare, closed. That clinic had been in the media and public spotlight after it was briefly suspended in 2013 during the General Assembly’s debate over new abortion statutes.

Shortly before Femcare’s demise, Planned Parenthood Health Systems announced that it planned to open a new women’s health and abortion services clinic in Asheville. That facility is slated to open in January, Reed said on Monday.

“We’re still on target for opening the very first of the year,” she said. “We’ll open our family planning services first, and then after all the licensing and certification is received from the state, we’ll be able to offer abortion care. That may be another month or so.”

For the record: Read the state’s proposed new abortion regulations

NC’s Proposed New Abortion Rules (PDF)
NC’s Proposed New Abortion Rules (Text)

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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