Updated May 17. North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, on Saturday, May 13, vetoed a bill that would ban most abortions after 12 weeks, a move the Republican supermajority in the state legislature has promptly overridden along party lines.
Following the override, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a Republican, tweeted:
“I am glad to see Republicans in the NC House and Senate stand strong and override the Governor’s veto. While North Carolina Democrats have continued to lie about the ‘Care for Women, Children, and Families Act,’ Republicans have taken a stand to create a culture of life in North Carolina.
“While protecting the lives of the unborn, this bill provides over $160 million in funding for childcare, foster care, parental leave and so many other valuable services for the people of our state.”
Cooper had signed paperwork to veto the bill at a rally on the Bicentennial Plaza, across the street from the GOP-controlled General Assembly, as abortion rights demonstrators chanted “Veto!” on one side of the street and about 100 pro-life supporters prayed aloud and chanted on the other.
The showdown between supporters and opponents came after a weeklong effort by Cooper to highlight opposition to the new restrictions and put political pressure on a handful of Republican lawmakers who had previously expressed support for freer abortion laws but signed on to support the 12-week bill along with the rest of their colleagues.
Specifically, Cooper targeted Mecklenburg County Republican lawmakers Tricia Cotham and John Bradford, both of whom he says campaigned on keeping the state’s abortion rights unchanged. Cotham, who has talked on the floor of the state House about her own experience having an abortion, switched from the Democrat to Republican Party last month and voted for the bill. And Bradford has publicly said he won’t side with the governor. Cooper is also trying to put pressure on Rep. Ted Davis and Sen. Michael Lee.
The Republican bill, SB 20—the Care for Women, Children and Families Act—would reduce the time in which abortions can be performed in North Carolina from 20 weeks to 12 weeks, with exceptions for rape and incest, fatal fetal abnormalities, and to save the life of the pregnant woman. The bill would take effect July 1, and would require doctors to be present when abortion medication is given. Those seeking medical abortions would require an in-person consultation with a doctor at least 72 hours before the procedure. It also includes funding for foster and child care as well as paid parental leave.
The bill passed quickly though the legislature in fewer than 48 hours in early May, drawing criticism from Democrats and abortion rights supporters who urged a period of lengthier analysis and debate typical for such legislation.
Republican lawmakers called the bill “common-sense legislation” that represented a compromise that stopped short of the more restrictive bans opposed by a majority of U.S. voters. Democratic opponents called it “devastatingly cruel,” and said it would force women into seeking illegal abortions.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the pro-life North Carolina Values Coalition, criticized Cooper for vetoing the bill and for holding his rally the day before Mother’s Day.
“His actions would crush provisions to give women more opportunities to choose life, improve safety standards of clinics, and stop the barbaric painful practice of partial birth abortion,” she said in a statement, adding Cooper’s attempts to convince Republican lawmakers to sustain his veto were “a fool’s errand.”
Abortions in North Carolina rose by 37%, more than any other state, in the first two months after the Dobbs ruling last June, according to a study by the Society of Family Planning, a pro-abortion nonprofit.
April Gonzalez, a volunteer with Students for Life Action who attended Saturday’s opposing rally, told The Raleigh News & Observer, “We’re here to show that life comes with joy and pregnancy is not burdensome. But it’s a communal effort. You might be pregnant physically and carry the baby on your own, but you should have a spouse and trusted others to help you raise your child with joy.”
Ahead of Saturday’s rally, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina sent a joint letter to state lawmakers encouraging them to override the governor’s impending veto. “As an elected member of the Legislature, you now have an incredible opportunity before you to save countless preborn lives by overriding the governor’s impending veto of the ‘Care for Women, Children, and Families Act,’ (Senate Bill 20) which restricts abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, the letter said. “We thank the North Carolina General Assembly for passing Senate Bill 20, and now your continuing action is desperately needed.”
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