North Carolina Republicans Override Veto, Allowing 12-Week Abortion Ban To Become Law

A GOP supermajority quashed Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a 12-week ban that was fast-tracked through the legislature.

North Carolina Republicans successfully killed Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a 12-week abortion ban on Tuesday, paving the way for the restriction to soon become law.

When the legislature held an override vote on Tuesday, every Republican voted for the 12-week abortion ban in the Senate, 30-20, and the House, 72-48 ― confirming that the state’s Republican supermajority had the power to override Cooper’s veto. All four Republicans whom Cooper had eyed as possible swing votes — state Reps. Tricia Cotham, John Bradford and Ted Davis Jr., as well as state Sen. Michael V. Lee — voted in favor of the abortion ban.

Protesters in the state house immediately started yelling “Shame! Shame! Shame!” after the override was successful. Republican leadership cleared the galley.

The 12-week ban and its additional restrictions concerning medication abortion are set to go into effect on July 1. Other parts of the legislation are expected to go into effect at different times later this year.

Cotham switched parties earlier this year, handing Republicans their critical veto-proof supermajority. The former Democrat was once an outspoken advocate for abortion rights, even sharing her own abortion story on the House floor in a passionate plea against an abortion restriction in 2015. Earlier this year, she co-sponsored a bill to codify abortion protections as a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Roe v. Wade last summer.

Cooper vetoed the 12-week abortion ban at a rally in Raleigh on Mother’s Day weekend, surrounded by physicians, advocates and fellow Democrats.

“We’ve heard Republican legislators claiming this bill is a mainstream compromise,” Cooper said to the crowd. “Let me tell you what ― mainstream bills don’t get written in secret, kept under lock and key, introduced in the dark of night, kept from public input, protected from any amendments and then get rammed through in less than 48 hours.”

The governor traveled to several swing districts in recent weeks, after Republicans pushed the abortion ban through the legislature in just 48 hours. Cooper, who has voiced support for abortion rights throughout his tenure, hosted a handful of roundtable discussions on reproductive health and encouraged voters to call their elected officials and ask them to sustain his veto.

During his six years in office, Cooper has successfully vetoed more than 50 bills.

But Cotham’s party switch, plus the national wave of anti-choice political rhetoric since Roe fell, set up Cooper and his fellow Democrats for failure. A 12-week abortion ban will likely have devastating consequences not just for North Carolinians, but for a large swath of the Southeast, since the state has become a safe haven for abortion care since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

The state has experienced a 37% increase in abortions since Roe fell — the highest percentage increase of any state. Florida, the state with the second highest increase in abortions since Dobbs, is also staring down a six-week abortion ban that is likely to go into effect in July. These restrictions are only expected to create more barriers to care, forcing people who can do so to travel even farther to get abortions, and other people to continue with unwanted pregnancies.

North Carolina Republicans crafted the abortion ban behind closed doors, unveiling it earlier this month to the surprise of many voters in the state. Instead of introducing a new piece of legislation, Republican lawmakers quietly tucked the 46-page abortion restriction into an unrelated piece of legislation. The move allowed anti-abortion lawmakers to circumvent the committee process, where most public testimony is heard, and go straight to a vote.

“Senate Republicans know that by talking about abortion, it’s bad for them,” state Sen. Sydney Batch (D) told HuffPost on Monday. “They want this done as quickly as possible. They want to hold this override and they want to be done talking about abortion.”

The 12-week abortion ban carries a laundry list of other restrictions, including a 72-hour waiting period, a ban on medication abortion after 10 weeks and a requirement that patients go to a clinic twice before receiving abortion care. There are exceptions for rape and incest through 20 weeks of pregnancy and an exception for lethal fetal abnormalities through 24 weeks. There are also exceptions for the life of the pregnant person, and the bill clarifies that the removal of an ectopic pregnancy is not defined as an elective abortion.

The ban requires that any abortion performed after the 12-week point, under the exceptions, needs to be done in a hospital. It’s worth noting that abortion ban exceptions often don’t work in practice, and sometimes represent a strategy by anti-choice lawmakers to make an extreme bill look more reasonable.

There are only 14 abortion clinics in North Carolina, meaning 91% of counties are without a clinic. And the legislation will impose new licensing requirements on abortion clinics, which could lead to some shutting down.

“The Republican Party has proven that they will not stop until every American loses their reproductive freedom ― and the North Carolina GOP has shown that once again, Republicans cannot be trusted with our rights,” Heather Williams, Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee interim president, said in a statement Tuesday night.

“This move by North Carolina’s Republican supermajority will impact access to abortion for over 10 million people in the state and will have ripple effects across the region and the country,” Williams added. “State Democrats everywhere are fighting back against this extreme agenda, and Republicans will pay for their attacks on our freedoms at the ballot box — just like they did last cycle.”

Popular in the Community