(Photo: North Carolina Council of Churches Facebook)
Sixty-four pro-abortion protesters who were opposing a bill by North Carolina's Republican-controlled government that seeks to limit access to abortion clinics were arrested on Monday in Raleigh.
Calling it "Moral Monday," the protests, which have focused on different issues, are now in their tenth week, Reuters reported, with last night drawing one of the biggest crowds of about 2,000 people. The 64 that were arrested had refused to leave the legislative chambers – one of them was Janet Colm, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.
"I'm very concerned about the laws that are being presented that limit women's rights and access to birth control and abortion," said one of the demonstrators, Amy McKee, according to Wral.com. "I have daughters. I'm really concerned about their future."
Republican legislators passed a bill last week in the state Senate that requires abortion clinics "to conform to the same safety standards as ambulatory surgery centers." The stricter standards could cut down North Carolina's five abortion clinics to only one.
State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said that the "Moral Monday" events, which have led to mass arrests in the past as well, are making it a challenging time for North Carolina.
"I'm fielding calls every day, 'What the heck's going on [over] there?'" Decker told reporters.
Previous protests focused on the state legislature's budget cut, with several Christian pastors saying that it is the government's responsibility to provide care for the poor.
"Those of us participating in Moral Mondays are doing exactly what we believe we are called to do as Christians – showing compassion for our brothers and sisters," said the Rev. George Reed, executive director of the North Carolina Council of Churches. "Many of those facing the most devastating harm in North Carolina … are exactly the people Jesus and the prophets would have us help."
Others, such as the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, have disagreed with the budget protests, saying there is nothing moral about "Moral Mondays."
"I think it would be immoral if the same course of taxing and spending were continued and the opinions of voters ignored," Creech told The Christian Post.
"These are lean times, requiring extraordinary character," he added, arguing that like "a doctor treating a patient," sometimes there has to be suffering for there to be healing.
"The leadership is currently trying very hard to make the cuts and necessary sacrifices as equally shared as possible," the pastor added about the budget cuts.
As for the abortion bill, its supporters say that the higher standards will make abortion procedures safer, while its opponents say that it will only serve to limit access to safe abortions.
Acknowledging the strong feelings on both sides of the issue, Gov. Pat McCrory addressed the numerous "Moral Monday" protests, saying that the term is a misnomer.
"Listen, we should have respectful differences, but to say one is moral, which gives the reference that one is immoral, on a political dispute ... I think is quite misleading," McCrory said. "I respectfully disagree with some of those who are protesting against me, but from that disagreement I'm not judging them on their personal character."
The governor added, however, that he was pleased that so far the protests have not turned violent.