Update 4:30 p.m. Eastern: The North Carolina House passed the bill in a 74-41 vote, according to WRAL.
The North Carolina House is set to vote on a draconian anti-abortion bill Thursday after Republicans bundled the bill's provisions into a motorcycle safety bill on Wednesday in an effort to hurry it through the legislature. According to Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel, the state's GOP made the changes to the motorcycle law bill without giving advance notice to the public or to Democratic legislators.
Democratic legislators told Huffington Post that they're expecting large and voluble protests to accompany Thursday's legislative session, which will feature two hours of debate on SB 353 from Democrats and one hour from Republicans.
"We know that proponents -- or what I call the anti-women's health people -- are going to do the same, so it's going to be a zoo," said Paige Johnson of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.
Republicans originally tried to ram through the brace of anti-choice laws -- some of the most stringent in the nation -- as part of a Senate bill banning Sharia law in the state. It passed the state Senate July 3, but Republican Gov. Pat McCrory threatened to veto the measure because he felt that the process of writing the bill's amendments had been rushed.
Senate Republicans instead pulled anti-abortion measures -- which require abortion providers to meet a long list of bureaucratic hurdles and mandate that a doctor be present for all abortions, whether they are invasive or not -- from the anti-Sharia law bill and bundled them into SB 353, the motorcycle safety bill, and passed it without notifying Democrats. The bill moved on to the House, where Democrats who arrived at the bill's hearings expected to debate motorcycle safety.
"As a member of the committee, I thought I had a motorcycle safety bill," state Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D) said to Huffington Post. "I didn't bring a file on this abortion bill they had, so I wasn't prepared when we got into the meeting."
The new bill also denies public employees access to health plans that include abortion coverage and mandates even more red tape licensing requirements for clinics that offer abortion.
"It could very well close down abortion clinics that already exist in this state," said state Rep. Mickey Michaux (D) to Huffington Post.
"It is just a sneak attack against a constitutionally protected service for women in North Carolina," said Queen. "When they attack the abortion issue...they eliminate a lot of other very important women's health issues that these clinics serve."
"This is a real full-scale assault on a woman's right of privacy and, in my view, all but extinguishes a woman's right to choose in this state," said state Rep. Rick Glazier (D). "People ought to be concerned about what it portends for the future when this majority seems only confined by one thing -- and that's how much they can get away with."
[image of NC Gov. Pat McCrory (R) via official website]