By Karen Brooks
(Reuters) - North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law on Monday new requirements for clinics performing abortions that supporters say will protect women's safety and opponents say will restrict access to the procedure.
The new law places sweeping new restrictions on abortion clinics, including a requirement doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and be present when abortions are performed.
It also bans publicly funded health insurance programs from paying for most abortions, and authorizes state health officials to design rules for increased safety standards for abortion clinics.
The move comes just a week after Texas passed new standards on abortion clinics and judges delayed anti-abortion legislation in North Dakota and Alabama.
McCrory, a Republican, said Monday that the North Carolina legislation furthers women's safety but does not unconstitutionally restrict access to the legal procedure.
He had threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill that required abortion clinics to follow the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers, saying it was clearly aimed at shutting down clinics in the state. McCrory said during his campaign that he would not sign legislation aimed at restricting access.
"These higher standards will result in safer conditions for North Carolina women," McCrory said Monday. "This law does not further limit access and those who contend it does are more interested in politics than the health and safety of our citizens."
But abortion-rights advocates said that his signature amounted to a broken promise, because the new standards on clinic doctors will make it impossible for some clinics to continue operating. They vowed to fight the new laws in North Carolina and in other states.
"Over the last month, North Carolina women have stood up to fight back and they aren't just going to stand by and take this," said Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards in a statement. "They're going to take the energy and enthusiasm that has been built here and run with it."
(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Lisa Shumaker)