North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Saturday vetoed a bill banning abortions after the first trimester, teeing up an override vote by the GOP supermajority legislature.
The Democrat decried the legislation, which he vetoed at a rally in downtown Raleigh, as a “complicated and confusing monster bill” that makes patients “navigate a wicked obstacle course just to get care.”
“Standing in the way of progress right now is this Republican supermajority legislature that only took 48 hours to turn the clock back 50 years on women’s health,” Cooper said. “Let’s be clear: This bill has nothing to do with making women safer and everything to do with banning abortion.”
Republican lawmakers quickly introduced and passed the bill earlier this month over the complaints of Democrats, who argued they hadn’t had enough time to debate the legislation.
Legislative leaders had, however, signaled for months they were trying to reach a compromise on new abortion restrictions, though it was unclear whether they would before the end of session.
After lawmakers approved the legislation, Cooper pledged to veto the bill, and called on four moderate Republicans to oppose an override, including one who was absent from the vote. He spent the last week traveling across the state to districts represented by those lawmakers, hoping to persuade them.
“If even just one Republican in either the House or the Senate keeps a campaign promise to protect women’s reproductive health, we can stop this ban,” Cooper said. “There are four legislators who made these promises, but I think there may be more who know in their hearts and minds that this is bad.”
Caitlin Connors, southern regional director for SBA Pro-Life America, slammed Cooper’s veto as “extreme.”
“It’s alarming that on Mother’s Day weekend the leader of the purple state of North Carolina is using his political power to serve the financial interests of abortion executives, rather than to represent the consensus on late term abortions, establish paid parental leave for teachers and establish a game-changing amount of funding for childcare,” Connors said in a statement.
While 93 percent of abortions are performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, according to the CDC, abortion-rights advocates argue the legislation would impose unnecessary restrictions on access.
According to a Meredith College poll from February, 57 percent of North Carolina voters support either keeping the state’s 20-week limit or expanding access beyond that, while about 35 percent favor of new restrictions.
If approved, the law will reduce the time in which abortions can be performed from 20 weeks to 12 weeks, with exceptions for rape and incest, fatal fetal abnormalities and to save the life of the pregnant person. The bill, which takes effect July 1, would also require patients to have an in-person doctor’s visit at least 72 hours before receiving an abortion.
The legislation also includes $160 million to support maternal and reproductive health, paid family leave and adoption.
It would be the least stringent law a GOP legislature has passed since Roe v. Wade fell last summer. Indiana and West Virginia enacted near-total abortion bans, and Florida and North Dakota enacted six-week abortion bans this spring. Utah also passed a law this year requiring abortions to be performed in hospitals, not clinics, which abortion-rights advocates argue is tantamount to a ban on the procedure.
Still, the bill will make it harder for not only North Carolinians but also for people across the South to access the procedure, as North Carolina has become a haven for abortion access since Roe was overturned last year. Nearly 5,000 more abortions were performed in the state in the six months after the court decision as the state absorbed some of the demand for the procedure from neighboring states, such as Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to WeCount, an abortion tracking project sponsored by the Society of Family Planning.
South Carolina lawmakers may be poised to enact a new six-week ban on abortion, after a similar law was overturned by the state Supreme Court in January, and Florida’s newly passed six-week law is poised to take effect pending the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in a separate case.