State Reps. Sydney Batch, Ashton Clemmons and Darren Jackson told HuffPost that some of their colleagues across the aisle are trying to force through the “Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” by repeatedly delaying a veto vote override in the state House. The controversial anti-abortion measure, which Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed last month, threatens prison time for medical professionals who do not provide necessary medical care to an infant born alive during a late-term abortion ― a vanishingly rare event.
State House Speaker Tim Moore (R) has rescheduled the veto vote override at least 10 times since the beginning of May, according to Batch and Clemmons. They say Moore keeps pulling the vote in hopes that enough Democrats will eventually be absent so that GOP members can successfully override Cooper’s veto.
Batch underwent a mastectomy in early May after being diagnosed with breast cancer last year. She had planned to take at least three weeks off to recover, but was forced to come back to work early after she and other Democrats realized their GOP colleagues were trying to capitalize on her absence in order to pass this bill.
“It’s extremely frustrating to me, because I would think that there would be people who would have the decency, including Speaker Moore, to say that someone deserves to be able to recover after having a major surgery,” Batch told HuffPost.
“Moore is well aware of what’s happening with me and that I’m dealing with ongoing treatment,” she added. “I have not asked for a lot.”
Clemmons and Jackson, who is minority leader of the state House, said Batch, a working mother of two, was in pain and visibly shaking when she showed up for the last few House sessions. Clemmons has driven Batch to and from sessions since she’s still too weak to drive herself.
“[We’re] watching her sit on the House floor, obviously in pain, because of games that are being played,” Clemmons said. “And the games that are being played are to subvert the will of the voters of our state who voted for Democrats to have a voice.”
When reached for comment, Moore sidestepped the foul play accusation and focused on the “Born Alive” bill.
“Democrats are criticizing the standard House procedure of noticing a veto override on the calendar ahead of time to distract from their opposition to the actual bipartisan bill, which bans an absolutely heinous practice of killing babies who weren’t successfully aborted after they are born,” he said. “We continue to pursue additional Democratic votes to take a stand for living, breathing North Carolinians who are born alive in this state and will hold a vote on the veto override when we have enough of their support to approve the bill.”
Moore’s communications director, Joseph Kyzer, said the House is following standard procedure for veto overrides “consistent with prior sessions.”
“Historical precedent proves this is in no way a new process or one specifically directed to any member of the House or party ― it’s been done this way in all three of Speaker Moore’s terms and in previous years too,” Kyzer said.
The measure, sponsored by three Republicans, was vetoed last month by Cooper, who called the legislation “needless.” The bill would “criminalize doctors and other healthcare providers for a practice that simply does not exist,” Cooper wrote in the April 30 veto.
Similar measures have been considered on the federal level, but failed. Critics of such bills report that it’s medically nearly impossible for infants to be born alive during late-term abortions. Additionally, many opponents note that murder and infanticide are already illegal. They say the real purpose of this kind of bill is to energize the conservative base and create additional obstacles for people seeking abortions.
A North Carolina federal court struck down a 20-week abortion ban in March.
North Carolina Democrats broke the Republican supermajority during the 2018 election, when Cooper was elected governor. Although Republicans hold the majority in the House (65 out of the 120 caucus members), they would need 60 percent of the legislative body, or 72 votes, to override Cooper.
This means Republicans don’t have enough members to override Cooper’s veto on their own. In order to be successful, Republicans need to rely on Democrats to swing favor or wait until enough Democrats are absent to call for a veto vote override ― or a combination of both.
The state Senate voted to override Cooper’s veto on April 30. Democrat Don Davis was the key swing vote that allowed the GOP to win out.
Now, all eyes are on the House.
After the vote was rescheduled multiple times, 119 of the House’s 120 members were present to vote on Monday night. Batch, who made sure she was in attendance, said they “rarely get better numbers than that.” Still, Moore pulled the vote, delaying it yet again.
“This is a win-at-all-costs attitude,” Jackson said.
The Democratic leader noted that he doesn’t believe this is a personal attack on Batch. It’s simply the “kind of thing they’re looking to take advantage of. They would do it to any Democrat in that situation,” he said.
Tactics like these are not new. Jackson said House Republicans have used this strategy to override vetoes in the past, most recently in 2012 and 2015.
“They tried this week. Next week they’ll be taking advantage of somebody else’s misfortune,” he said.
Despite the pain and discomfort she’s in, Batch said she’ll continue to show up to sessions to ensure her vote is heard.
Jackson, Batch and Clemmons said the “Born Alive” bill is legally and medically unnecessary. Women, they all agreed, should have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. But this veto vote override is about more than just the bill ― it also sets a precedent.
“They’re putting politics above running a good and effective government,” Batch said. “Whether or not we are able to sustain the governor’s veto or if it’s overridden ― at the end of the day, it deserves a vote, and it deserves a vote with as many people as possible.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated that Democrats in North Carolina hold a supermajority. It has been updated to show that Democrats broke the Republican supermajority during the 2018 election.