UPDATED: Kidwell files bill banning abortion at conception – threat to mother’s life an exception

Published 11:37 am Thursday, March 30, 2023

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On Wednesday, March 29, North Carolina Representative Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort, Hyde, Dare, Pamlico) filed a bill banning abortion at conception known as the Human Life Protection Act of 2023 (HB533). 

If enacted, this bill would prohibit abortion from the moment of conception; however, if the pregnancy may cause the woman to die or cause great bodily harm to her then she is exempted from the penalties listed in the bill which are; being charged with a felony, being subjected to a civil penalty no less than $100,000 and/or the healthcare provider who performed the abortion could have their license revoked. 

“In the exercise of reasonable medical judgment, the pregnant female on whom the abortion is performed, induced, or attempted has a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that places the female at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless the abortion is performed or induced,” bill states as the exception to the consequences of having an abortion if this bill becomes law. 

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At a press conference the following day (March 30) Kidwell told reporters this bill was his third attempt to see a pro-life bill pass through the General Assembly. He said each year he’s been elected he has filed similar legislation. He is more confident the Human Life Protection Act will pass because Republicans have the majority vote. Kidwell said he hopes this bill will be a “conversation starter.” The General Assembly’s latest override of Governor Roy Cooper’s veto on Senate Bill 41 shows Kidwell Republicans in the state legislature can do it a second time should Cooper veto Kidwell’s bill. (Senate Bill 41 no longer requires a person to obtain a pistol permit from the sheriff’s office when they purchase a pistol.)

The bill excludes oral contraceptives, birth control devices, ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, stillbirths as well as accidental or unintentional deaths by a licensed medical professional who provided treatment resulting in the death of an unborn child. The bill does not list rape or incest as exceptions. 

Kidwell said his Christian faith is a large reason why rape an incest are not exceptions in the Human Life Protection Act of 2023. To him, life begins the moment a child is conceived, and that child should not suffer the consequences of its parents’ actions. 

“When we look at the Bible, if you’re Christian, you look at the Bible, ‘I knew you when I formed you in your mother’s womb.’ So that tells me that, that’s life. So when we talk about life, we don’t kill a child because of what the father or the mother did,” Kidwell said quoting Psalm 139:13. 

He explained further that working at pregnancy centers showed him there are rare instances of  women looking to have an abortion because of either rape or incest. According to the Guttmacher Institute just 1% of women have an abortion because of either rape or incest. The Guttmacher Institute is a research and policy 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization “committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.”

When asked by the Daily News to clarify why birth control and contraceptive devices are exceptions in an abortion bill, Kidwell again cited his Christian faith which he says advises against the use of either. “Technically, if I go back to my religion it says that you should not even really use birth control… I can’t square that myself. I think that’s something most people are practicing anyway.” 

Thirteen states have banned most abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade on June 24, 2022 which stated women had a constitutional right to an abortion, according to a report from the New York Times. Georgia’s abortion law is more strict, because it bans the procedure at approximately six weeks – a time before most women know they are pregnant. 

“North Carolina remains on the eastern part of the United States, one of the highest number of weeks – 20 weeks – most of the other states have gone far below that. That has caused North Carolina to become a destination state for abortion,” Kidwell told reporters. 

In North Carolina, abortions are banned at the 20th week. Women considering an abortion are required to wait 72 hours after receiving counseling about having an abortion and alternatives like adoption or keeping the child. State Medicaid coverage of an abortion is banned as well except in very limited cases. Only physicians can conduct abortions, not another healthcare professional, according to the Guttmacher Institute. 

Guttmacher also reports that 31,850 abortions were performed in the state in 2020 which is about 15.3 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in North Carolina within the same year. In 2017, there were 14 clinics in the state which provided abortion care. 

When asked by the Daily News if he has concerns this bill may cause women to consider taking risks in searching for a physician to perform an abortion, Kidwell said, “a woman who wants to get an abortion today is going to do that. I just don’t think we should have it state sanctioned in North Carolina.” He continued to say women looking to have an abortion can travel to other states like Virginia, New York or California to have the procedure. 

Kidwell has two other sponsors on the bill, Representative Ben Moss Jr. (R- Moore and Richmond) and Representative Edward Goodwin (R-Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Perquimans, Tyrell, Washington). 

As of Thursday early afternoon, March 30, the bill had not been reviewed and voted on by the General Assembly.