This North Carolina Woman Is Speaking Out Against A Bill That Would Ban Medical Masks In Public With No Exceptions

Recently, the North Carolina state senate passed a bill that would ban wearing medical masks in public in the state, even for the most vulnerable residents.

this north carolina woman is speaking out against a bill that would ban medical masks in public with no exceptions

The bill, known as House Bill 237 Unmasking Mobs and Criminals , still needs to pass in the House before being signed into North Carolina law. In its current form, the law would ban even immunocompromised cancer patients from wearing medical masks in public. However, groups like the Proud Boys and the Klu Klux Klan would still be able to petition for permission to wear face coverings during public gatherings under the law. Ironically, North Carolina originally banned face coverings in the 1950s to target the KKK and only added a medical exemption in 2020. This current bill would repeal the 2020 exemption. Momo Productions / Getty Images

Proponents of the bill hope to crack down on protestors calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, but critics fear that the mask ban could do a lot more harm than good.

Republican bill sponsor Buck Newton said the bill isn't meant to "prosecute granny for wearing a mask in the Walmart." But as the traumatic and harmful outcomes of abortion bans in states like Florida and Texas have shown, when the law is not explicit enough about what is allowed, it can be used as a cudgel against the most vulnerable among us.

Caroline Hardin is a 33-year-old North Carolina resident who's been using her platform to raise awareness about the potential harms of this bill. She's a wife and mother who has an autoimmune condition, and she's very worried about how a ban on medical masks could affect her and her family. She told BuzzFeed, "For me, what that would do, it would effectively imprison me inside my home, being not able to go anywhere, and that's literally impossible because that would include doctors' offices, pharmacies, anything that I personally would have to go to rather than having things delivered."

Hardin also worries how the ban might be unfairly applied to others in her community, especially to people of color. "I immediately became concerned about the overarching implications of that with how crimes, in general, are prosecuted unevenly across the state depending on different communities, different neighborhoods, law enforcement's mood that day... The wording of this bill allowed it to be so vague that lawmakers could claim 'it's going to be fine,' but it was vague enough to be used as a blunt instrument of inflicting violence on communities. And that to me, was completely unconscionable."

this north carolina woman is speaking out against a bill that would ban medical masks in public with no exceptions

While some lawmakers say that people weren't punished before 2020 for wearing medical masks in public so this ban shouldn't make a difference to the average law-abiding citizen, Hardin doesn't find that argument comforting. She says, "We don't live in a pre-2020 world anymore. We live right now where masks have been heavily politicized, where they have been connected to different political ideologies, and where people get harassed, even now, for wearing a mask." Andresr / Getty Images

Hardin has shared several videos on TikTok raising awareness about the harms that could come from this bill. And in the comments, people voiced their concerns and outrage.

Some commenters pointed out that they're already being harassed for taking necessary precautions and wearing masks.

this north carolina woman is speaking out against a bill that would ban medical masks in public with no exceptions

@ birdie.bristlecone / Via tiktok.com

And others mentioned that similar laws are under consideration in other states. If such a law has been proposed in your state, Hardin recommends calling on your representatives to codify the right to wear a medical mask to protect your health and the health of others.

this north carolina woman is speaking out against a bill that would ban medical masks in public with no exceptions

@ birdie.bristlecone / Via tiktok.com

On YouTube, Hardin interviewed North Carolina State Senator Sydney Batch, who has been a vocal opponent of the bill and has worked to have amendments added that would protect peoples' right to wear a mask for health reasons. Senator Batch explained that the bill wouldn't just lead to harsher sentences for people who commit crimes while wearing a mask. She said, "What the bill now does is it criminalizes anyone with a class one misdemeanor for wearing a mask in public, and it does not give an exception at all to any health conditions."

As a cancer survivor, Senator Batch has made it clear that her opposition to this bill is deeply personal. She told BuzzFeed, "Some people say that we're fear-mongering. And what I would tell you is that for someone who's been immunocompromised in the past and had to wear masks, and my children and my husband wear masks to protect me, you know, I'm not fear-mongering. It's a genuine concern, right? Somebody can actually die and get very ill if they are not able to protect themselves, if they're immunocompromised, etc. This is a bipartisan concern we've heard from all of our constituents, Republican and Democrat alike."

Despite her worry over this bill, Hardin says she loves living in North Carolina, which she describes as "one of the most beautiful places in the world" despite the bad rep that the South gets in other parts of the country. "I've grown up in the South, and so I've seen all of the pros and cons of living here. I do like how Southern culture at its root is supposed to be kind, and I do encounter a lot of kindness."

Finally, Hardin hopes that non-disabled people will also oppose this bill and join in the fight. She says, "Everybody's one incident away from joining the disability community; you either grow old enough to get a disability or you die. Those are the only two options. So you're going to be affected by this bill."

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