By Ned Barnett
RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - The North Carolina House of Representatives narrowly overrode a veto on Tuesday of a bill requiring women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion and be presented with a ultrasound of the fetus.
Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue, the state's first female governor, vetoed the measure on June 27 and reiterated her opposition to the bill on Tuesday.
"The Republicans' social agenda has, with this bill, invaded a woman's life as never before -- by marching straight into her doctor's office and dictating the medical advice and treatment she receives," Perdue said in a statement.
The bill now moves to the state Senate, where it passed in June just one vote shy of the three-fifths majority needed to override the governor's veto.
Should the Senate also override Perdue's veto, the bill would become law 90 days after that vote.
Under the bill, women seeking an abortion must wait 24 hours after requesting an abortion before undergoing the procedure. Women would also have to be advised of the alternatives to abortion and presented with an image of the fetus and a chance to hear its heartbeat.
Carey Pope, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said her organization would try to persuade the Senate to uphold the governor's veto but was "not optimistic." Planned Parenthood complained that women don't need "state-scripted" counseling to consent to an abortion.
Republican Representative Ruth Samuelson, the bill's primary sponsor, has defended it as providing crucial information for women who are making a major and irrevocable decision.
Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate with Guttmacher Institute in Washington, said 25 states require counseling before an abortion, but an ultrasound requirement was fairly unusual.
She said several states required an ultrasound image be offered, but not that it be shown. The North Carolina bill requires that the ultrasound image be presented and the sound of the fetal heartbeat be offered, though the woman is free to look away and ignore a simultaneous explanation and medical description of what is on the screen.
"What you're left with is the woman can close her eyes and try to shut her ears," Nash said. She said similar laws face court challenges in Oklahoma and Texas.
According to the latest figures available from the Guttmacher Institute, there were 33,140 abortions in North Carolina in 2008.
(Edited by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)