North Carolina Legislature Passes 12-Week Abortion Ban
North Carolina hastily approved legislation on Thursday that would ban most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, setting the stage for a likely test of the Republican Party’s new, but slim, supermajority.
After an emotional, five-hour debate, the Senate, by a vote of 29-20, approved a ban the House had already passed the night before.
The bill now goes to the state’s Democratic governor, who has called it “extreme,” and said he would veto it. He has 10 days to act.
But the legislature has the potential to override his veto if Republicans can keep their party united to muster enough votes.
In a video he posted to Twitter on Thursday, the governor, Roy Cooper, urged residents to help uphold his veto by pressuring four Republicans who had campaigned to protect women’s reproductive health to break from their party.
If enacted, the bill would reduce abortion access in the state, which currently allows abortion up to 20 weeks. It would also further curtail access throughout the South. North Carolina has become a destination for women seeking abortions as one state after another has pushed to ban or restrict the procedure since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.
It is unclear when a vote to override the governor’s expected veto might occur. And legislators may not vote the same way they did on the bill; in the past, some have deliberately walked off the chamber floor in hopes of preventing an override vote.
The absence during Wednesday night’s House vote of Representative Ted Davis Jr., a Republican, suggested that at least one G.O.P. vote is in play. Mr. Davis did not respond to requests for comment.
To overturn the governor’s veto, at least 60 percent of lawmakers present must vote in favor of an override. If all legislators are in attendance, that would require all 72 Republicans in the House and all 30 in the Senate to vote for the override.
Framed as a “mainstream” compromise by Republicans, the bill is not nearly as severe as bans that have been embraced by conservative states. Most abortions take place before 13 weeks, according to the C.D.C.
Yet the North Carolina ban has outraged those in favor of abortion rights, who say it erects significant hurdles for those seeking abortions. On Thursday morning, protesters looped around the General Assembly building in the capital city of Raleigh. Around 5 p.m., when the Senate passed the bill, viewers in the chamber gallery erupted, shouting “Shame! Shame!”
The bill could also impose new licensing requirements for abortion clinics that Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which operates six clinics in the state, said could cause facilities to close.
The bill would also require at least two in-person visits to doctors, which would have a disproportionate impact on women with limited finances, transportation options, or job flexibility.
Exceptions for rape or incest would be permitted up to 20 weeks. If a doctor determines that a fetus has a “life-limiting anomaly,” an abortion is permitted up to 24 weeks. What the bill describes as “eugenic abortions” due to sex, race or Down syndrome would be prohibited.
And in a nod to conservatives who have sought to provide more financial support for families, the bill would dedicate at least $160 million for child care, contraceptives and foster care, among other initiatives.
Anti-abortion activists applauded the measure, even though they had pushed for a six-week ban.
“We are grateful more babies will be protected,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition. Passage of the bill, she said on Thursday, “marks the end of North Carolina as a destination for abortion and is a historic step forward for unborn babies and their mothers.”
During the House debate Wednesday night, Representative Julie von Haefen, a Democrat, said: “Make no mistake: your actions today will harm women.”
On Thursday, Senator Joyce Krawiec, a Republican who helped negotiate the package, called the measures “pro-woman.”
Republicans have long controlled the legislature but have been thwarted by Mr. Cooper, who has vetoed more than 75 measures since taking office in 2017. Yet last month, a longtime Democrat, Representative Tricia Cotham, unexpectedly switched parties, giving Republicans narrow supermajorities in both chambers.
When she was still a Democrat, Ms. Cotham promised to help codify Roe v. Wade in her state. Yet she voted in favor of the 12-week ban on Wednesday.
Democrats also objected to the process being rushed, with no opportunity for public review.
Thursday’s debate over the bill was the Senate’s longest in at least a decade, legislators said.
Dr. Jonas Swartz, a Duke Health obstetrician and gynecologist who has been following the policy discussions closely, said that elements like the need for patients to receive counseling in person 72 hours before an abortion, rather than over the phone, would make the procedure less accessible for many.
“Even though they had discussed that 12-week ban, this is worse than what I expected,” he said. “I think it will be really difficult for people who live in a county without an abortion clinic in North Carolina to arrange for abortion care, and even more difficult for people who live out of state, which is probably the point.”
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