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North Carolina lawmakers pass abortion law over veto

By Ned Barnett

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Women seeking an abortion in North Carolina will have to wait 24 hours and be presented with an ultrasound image of the fetus under an informed consent law passed on Thursday.

Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue had vetoed the measure, but the state Senate voted on Thursday to override the veto, two days after the lower chamber took similar action, which means the bill is now law and will take effect in October.

North Carolina joins 25 other U.S. states that require pre-abortion counseling that goes beyond basic medical "informed consent," according to Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate with Guttmacher Institute in Washington.

It is the tenth state to include the additional requirement of an ultrasound, which has drawn legal challenges in several states, Nash said.

The North Carolina law will require that an ultrasound image be presented and the sound of the fetal heartbeat be offered, though a woman is free to look away and ignore an explanation and medical description of what is on the screen.

Perdue, a Democrat and North Carolina's first female governor, vetoed the bill on June 27. In her veto message, she called the legislation a "dangerous intrusion into the confidential relationship that exists between women and their doctors."

Republican Representative Ruth Samuelson, the primary sponsor of the bill, has defended it as providing crucial information for women who are making a major and irrevocable decision.

Republicans took control of both legislative chambers of North Carolina's General Assembly last November for the first time in more than a century.

Paige Johnson, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, said this week that women don't need "state-scripted" counseling before they consent to a procedure they have already considered.

"Women give this decision great thought, and these legislators have passed legislation that assumes women are not capable of making this decision," Johnson said.

According to the latest figures available from the Guttmacher Institute, there were 33,140 abortions in North Carolina in 2008.

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