Good morning, everybody. Let's go ahead and close the door, if we could. Good morning, we begin this Press Conference today with members of the House and Senate and medical experts by praising the Secretary of Human Health and Services and her staff for her due diligence with regard to patient safety in women's reproductive health clinics. As demonstrated by the proposed regulations that were promulgated by her office. After an 18 month review process that fully engaged medical experts and providers, the proposed regulations improve patient safety and continue the expert long term care that has been given at these facilities across North Carolina and, the regulations are consistent with the providers own unwavering commitment to patient safety. The new regulations include among other provisions on site recovery after surgery, requirement of the defibrillator at these facilities, written agreements with nearby hospitals for emergency transfers, a 24 hour telephone number if complications arise which must be staffed by a person, not just a recording, a quality assurance board for each clinic that must have at least one physician who is not the owner, CEO or designee and finally, annual inspections rather than the past State practice of inspecting every 3 to 5 years. All of these recommendations were vetted and approved by those in the medical community as a responsible policy and furtherance of patient safety. But now, in the 13th hour of this process, several Republican members appear ready to pull the plug out from the feet of everyone involved, including the Secretary of Health and Human Services and their Governor. All of us standing here and many more in our caucuses had hoped to begin this session with issues that mattered to all citizens in North Carolina. We would like to be speaking to you about the vital importance of addressing our education system and teacher pay and the economy. But instead, some in the Republican majority, begin this session where they left off the last time with women's reproductive health and issues of marriage. Yesterday, Democrats conferred on jobs with business leaders. While the Republicans planned a conference to talk about everyone's private lives and intimate decisions. Who do you think was doing the public's business yesterday? We have sadly formed a legacy over the last session which we hope will be broke in this session of ignoring obvious Constitutional limitations and creating laws based on personal beliefs and preferences rather than, legal and medical foundation. I would point out to you that there are 14 bills that are currently, in Federal and State courts being litigated. Most of them have a common denominator of prohibiting citizens of North Carolina from exercising their rights as provided by Federal and State law. In the area that we are talking about today, to set the tone, the Supreme Court in the case of Planned Parenthood versus Casey long ago held that the State may not prohibit a women from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy. Nor may a state impose upon the right an undue burden which exists if a regulation's purpose or effect is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a women seeking an abortion before the fetus obtains viability.Simply put, the changes that are likely to be brought in bills before this legislature by Representative Stan and other colleagues would presumably violate these rulings. Based on testimony that Tammy Fitzgerald, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, gave to the commission. Those bills are likely to include the following provisions: requiring these facilities to meet surgical center standards, creating a requirement of admitting privileges for all providers, requiring board certified medical personnel and OBGYN, having on board at each staff an anesthesiologist or CRNA and requiring that a physician stay with the patient for one hour at least post-op among other provisions. All of those provisions have no medical basis in fact or in theory were rejected clearly by the commission itself, have been opposed in other States as simply ideological preferences and are being litigated across the country including at the Supreme Court of the United States. The State has a legal basis to ensure a women exerts her right to choose safely and under
After medical care. The proposed regulations by the secretary ?? inconsistently do so consistently with the best practices in the country in medical standards. The problems that i fear and my colleagues here fear and we will talk about now is that the bills that are about to be submitted by some of our republican colleagues. Instead seek governmental intrusion in to intimate personal liberties, politicize medical processes and impose a set of ideological standards on women's reproductive health services in North Carolina. I close my comments by noting that most North Carolinians do not want their health care regulations written by politicians. They want them drafted and implemented by doctors and nurses and medical professionals. It is time for the legislature to stay in its own lane and let the medical professionals do their job. indeed that is what the constitution requires. Joining me in this discussion today will be Representative Susan Fisher as well will be Senator Angela Brynt, Dr Matthews Erden, an OBG ?? from Chappell Hill who was instrumental in testifying as well before the commission and then Senator Mike Woodard and then we stand ready for answering any questions and also any comments any other member of the legislature might have. Turning it over now to Representative Fisher. Thank You. [Speaker Changes] Good Morning. I am Susan Fisher. I represent District 114 which is a portion of Buncombe county. North Carolina Legislature has imposed unprecedented restrictions on health care. In recent years, state elected officials have opposed Medicaid expansion, restricted public funding for family planning services and pass new laws seeking to restrict access to safe and legal abortion. It is in the rural parts of this state which themselves disproportionately impacted by these barriers to accessing healthcare. Ashville, a part of the Buncombe county that i represent is the largest city in Western North Carolina and yet it has been without an abortion provider since last summer, seven months ago. After nearly thirty years of serving women in western North Carolina and surrounding states, Ashville only provider was forced to close after realizing that the clinic was not positioned to effectively fight North Carolina's legislative atmosphere. The facts are that one in three women will have an abortion before she is 45. This means every women needs access to safe and legal abortion care in her own community. For almost a year , women in my district have had to take time off work , arrange child care, scrap together travel expenses and deal with transportation challenges in order to travel hundreds of miles to act on their own deeply personal reproductive health care decisions. One thing is clear for me in this process. The only people who care about women's health and safety are those provide the care that women depend on everyday and the women themselves. Those legislatures who want to bypass the process that themselves created are motivated by politics and their ultimate goal shutting off women's access to safe and legal abortion in North Carolina. I am pleased that soon women in my district and across western North Carolina will have access to high quality non judgmental abortion care at the new ?? parenthood Ashville health clinic health center. But we are here today to make clear that politics must be kept out of Women's healthcare. And now I would now like to call on Senator Angela Bryant. Thank you. [Speaker Changes] Good Morning and Thank you Representative Glazier and Fisher. I am Senator Angela Bryant representing Senate district 4 Nash, Wilson, Halifax, Vance and Warren Counties. I am here to emphasize the fact that women's rights to reproductive health care are a part of our civil and constitutional rights. One of the unique things about the United States and our founding principles and the documents is that there was this recognition of the importance of individual rights and there was some rights.
That the government was bound to respect even if they were asserted by one person and that is a strong aspect of the constitutional principles that we believe in and that this country was founded on and I think it's important to emphasize that the reproductive rights of women and the rights of women to have reproductive healthcare in the privacy of their relationship with their physician and within the context of their own spiritual and family values is a civil and constitutional right that we are bound to defend and stand up for and that I surely will stand up for and have since being a teenager fought for that civil right along with other civil rights that we now respect, celebrate and accept and it is unfortunate that like in other regions we are exposed to this shell game of let us make a law here and a regulation here to try to narrow these rights and if that doesn't work let's move and take a different approach here, that we're constantly faced with this shell game of attacks against our right to privacy and to the reproductive health care that we're entitled to as human beings and as a part of our civil and constitutional rights. It is also important to recognize that while ostensibly those who would, again, try to keep moving the playing field or changing the rules of the game and either moving the playing field around, would say that they are concerned about our own health and safety, we know that underneath all of that is also an interest in curtailing these constitutional rights, and it's important that we continue to make that clear. That the reproductive health services that women, that are an issue here and the right and the procedures for terminating pregnancy when that decision is made between a woman and her doctor are services that rarely result in complications and that are similar in terms and comparison to other procedures that are done within the context of the rules and regulations that have been recommended here by those experts and practitioners who are involved and stakeholders who are involved in this issue and we ask for support of this process and we ask that women and their families and men who support our constitutional rights become a part of the 6,000 women and citizens, men, women and citizens, who have filed comments in support of these regulations and that you have, I think, one more day to offer comments and support and we suggest and advise that that be done by all that would support our constitutional rights. Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Good morning. My name is Dr. Matthew Zerdan and I'm an obstetrician/gynecologist who provides the full spectrum of healthcare and reproductive services for the women of North Carolina. I'm here today to speak in support of efforts to improve patient care and to inject some facts and clarity to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services proposed abortion regulations. To comply with legislation passed in 2013, the Department of Health drafted regulations for clinics that provide abortion care. Over the course of a year they sought input from physicians and other medical professionals to craft proposed regulations based on science and medical evidence and not on a political agenda. I am encouraged that the Department of Health included medical experts in drafting the proposed abortion clinic regulations and it appears that the right balance was struck between protecting access to a critical reproductive healthcare service and overseeing clinic safety standards. As a physician, my number one priority is my patients' safety. Abortion is already extremely safe. Studies as well as data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, shows that abortion has a safety record of over 99% with a less than 1% complication rate. Even with this exceptional safety record, reproductive healthcare professionals are continually studying ways to ensure that patients receive the best possible care. Doctors are very much in favor of evidence-based measures that improve safety, but politically motivated regulations have become a serious concern. Across the country, we've seen political regulations that have forced clinics to comply with burdensome ambulatory surgical care standards that were just mentioned. These are requirements that the most respected organization of our field, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has found to be medically unnecessary. The main effect of these laws have been that good, safe clinics were forced to shut their doors
In Texas for example, these medically unnecessary requirements will leave close to a million women without any access to essential reproductive health services. And I’m here today to try and make sure that doesn’t happen in our great state. Today, I urge North Carolina policy makers to continue to keep this process free of political interference. I am deeply concerned that state legislators will intervene next week and override the expert recommendations that were made. It would be wrong to substitute their political agendas for the expertise of reproductive health care leaders and medical professionals. And in fact this would be a grave, grave mistake. Far from improving patients’ safety, politicizing this process would jeopardize access to reproductive healthcare for thousands of women. We must let health care professionals and medical experts continue to keep patients safe, let good clinics keep their doors open, and let doctors practice medicine without political interference. No doctor should have to stop providing care because he or she is unable to comply with regulations that lack any basis in medical evidence. Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Good morning. I’m Mike Woodard and I represent North Carolina Senate District 22. We are all here today because we want North Carolina women to be safe. As you just heard from Dr. Zerdin, abortion has a 99 percent plus safety record. ** the law that forced these regulations on women’s health clinics were clearly based on politics and not medicine. We recognize that the Department of Health and Human Services engaged in a thoughtful, reasoned process in crafting the proposed regulations. For over a year, the department worked hand-in-hand with medical experts, to draft a set of regulations that comport with relevant medical standards and will appropriately protect the health and safety of North Carolina women. And for that reason, eight reproductive health care experts testified before department hearing last month, that these regulations reflect sound medicine and science. Despite the overwhelming support for these regulations from the medical community and from the public at large, leaders in the General Assembly have signaled they plan to introduce legislation to substitute their judgment for that of medical experts and the Department of Health and Human Services. Let me be clear. Politicians are not medical experts. When it comes to the health and safety of the women of North Carolina, we need to listen to the experts. More than 6000 North Carolinians have submitted public comments to the Department of Health and Human Services over the last 30 days, calling on us to do just that. And there’s still one more day we continue to expect that North Carolinians will support these proposed regulations. We have to ask ourselves, “Who is more competent to set medical standards? Doctors and medical experts or politicians?” It’s time to stop playing politics with women’s health. That’s why we are here today, calling on our colleagues in both chambers to put women’s health first. And we’re also calling on Governor McCrory to keep his campaign promise, to stand with his own Department of Health and Human Services and put a stop to the blatant interference in women’s personal and private health care decisions. I’ll return the podium back to Representative Glazier. [SPEAKER CHANGES] We are now open for questions and if you would kindly direct it to the person or combination of people you’d like to ask, and certainly are open then for any other Representative or Senator who is here and we appreciate them to make any comments. Gary. [SPEAKER CHANGES] This is for law makers or representatives of abortion rights groups. Given what we have seen now by the rules, and given the vehement opposition to the law in 2013 and the opposition when Governor McCrory signed it, do you believe you’ve misjudged Governor McCrory on his intent, with these abortion rules? Because he said, “I won’t make abortion rules more restrictive than they already are.” [SPEAKER CHANGES] We certainly hope that the Governor will live up to that promise. He is going to have that opportunity, apparently. Some of his colleagues in the Republican Party are bound and determined to give him that opportunity, where he is going to have to make a decision fairly soon. And so we will see an answer to your question. We are optimistic, given the Secretary’s work, I specifically am pleasantly
Surprised and happy at the process that was used by the secretary. Don't know that I would've thought that would've engaged last year, and so I give her great credit and her staff and the rules that have been promulgated are exactly as the doctor described, I believed, fair and reasonably balanced and improve what is already an excellent patient safety record to a new level. Where the governor ends up being, we will all know shortly. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I was just [??] that that bill was, or that law was a combination of a series of bills that passed that have many other abortion care restrictions in them, so this is part of that law and part of the law that we care very deeply about, but there are restrictions on coverage or coverage bans or restrictions on city, state and municipal employees, whether they can get abortion care coverage, there are restrictions on physicians and how they provide care that are outside of this law, so, you know, regardless of what happens on this process, I'll only speak for NARAB but we believe the governor has already broken that campaign promise and this is an opportunity to make sure that he doesn't do any further damage. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I just think, as a follow up, that there are people who believe that he had sinister intentions by signing this bill. Sinister, I'm being a little facetious here, but exaggerating that he wanted to somehow restrict abortion further through these rules. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, let's be clear and follow exactly what Suzanne said, this is as it relates to the surgical, as it relates to the center, reproductive center guidelines that have been promulgated. That's not to say that that bill didn't have a number of bizarre and still in most of our minds unconstitutional provisions like, as I remember, requiring the doctor to be present when someone swallows the pill. They don't have to be present for any effects later, but they had to be present for the following of the first pill but not the second pill. Someone will one day have to explain the legitimacy of that. There were other provisions in the bill that were certainly ones that were not at all intended to protect women's health, but really to follow an ideological pattern, but we're not talking about that. That bill is done, it's here, what we are talking about are the present regulations and in that sense I think the secretary deserves due credit as do all the people that participated in that process. Other questions. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Have you seen any proposed bills or [??] what they're going to be doing? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I'll try to answer but other colleagues may want to answer as well. I think we certainly, probably would've heard more yesterday had their conference not been canceled at the last minute. I would've expected to have heard some details, but there's clearly been some information sent privately and quietly that there are multiple potential tracks right now to derail these regulations. One of them will be to file objections on the rule making process. Another will be bills that we believe are already in draft form with regard to the provisions that we talked about today to simply override the regulations. I have little doubt that one or both of those methods have been planned and are ready to be implemented. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Do you have a sense for, say, how that might play with the House leadership, say Speaker Moore, or the Senate leadership? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Do any of my colleagues want to? Again, I think again we'll see. The House and Senate leadership will apparently be given whether they want it or not the obligation to make that decision by some of the bills that are likely to be prepared, so I don't want to prejudge. I hope, again, that they will follow their Secretary of Health and Human Services, a medically sound process, and will not engage in the unconstitutional, the likely unconstitutional determinations that some of these bills would, the path that it would put us on, and, you know, it's interesting, I think. It's hard, it's going to be very hard, I believe, for the majority to craft a bill in this case that overrides, what amounts to, really, almost an 18 month process that is supported by medical experts on all sides, a process they created as Senator Woodard said, but now that it didn't come up with quite the ideologically determined result that they thought they were going to get to override their own process and substitute their own personal judgement. I cannot think of a better, sadly, a better constitutional case that would, I think, immediately lead to those regulations, overriding regulations being struck down in court, and I can't imagine that current leadership wants to continue to engage in that litigious path.
Are there questions for any of the, for the Doctor for any, anybody else up here? If not, we thank you for attending and we will all be available privately to answer any questions that you may have. We really appreciate it. Thank you.