Promise delivered: Republicans swiftly override Cooper abortion veto

(The Center Square) – North Carolina Republicans delivered on their weekend promise, swiftly on Tuesday evening overriding an abortion legislation veto of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The state…

(The Center Square) – North Carolina Republicans delivered on their weekend promise, swiftly on Tuesday evening overriding an abortion legislation veto of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The state Senate voted 30-20 to override Cooper on Senate Bill 20 shortly after 5 p.m., and the House followed suit 72-48 less than four hours later. There were no exceptions to party-line voting. Abortion supporters in both chambers shouted at lawmakers; Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, had some removed.

The law takes effect July 1.

Democrats, despite evidence to the contrary in southern states, described the legislation as an “extreme” ban on abortion that would harm women across the state. They also predicted a mass exodus of obstetrician-gynecologists. Many gave impassioned speeches with personal stories and anecdotes.

“You don’t understand the situations these women face in North Carolina. Yet rather than provide the kind of support they need, you’d rather control their bodies,” said Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guildford.

Republicans championed “mainstream” safeguards in the Care for Women, Children, and Families Act. They highlighted numerous exceptions, as well as $160 million in funding to address infant and maternal mortality, increase access to contraceptives, maternity leave, foster care, and other efforts to protect women and children.

“As a physician, I took an oath. That oath is a duty … to do no harm. And it’s a duty to protect each and every life,” said Rep. Kristin Baker, R-Cabarrus. “That is exactly what Senate Bill 20 does.”

The vote followed a week of campaigning by Cooper to pressure four Republicans – two in the Wilmington area, and two in the Charlotte area. Reports said he never called any of the four directly, instead choosing to incite crowds and take to left-leaning cable television. Democrats soaked up his words and actions; Republicans and their supporters said he told many lies along the way.

His veto and a rally in Raleigh was 24 hours before Mother’s Day. All actions were as expected, from the bill clearing both houses to the gubernatorial veto and the subsequent override.

“North Carolinians now understand that Republicans are united in their assault on women’s reproductive freedom and we are energized to fight back on this and other critical issues facing our state,” Cooper said following the override vote. “I will continue doing everything I can to protect abortion access in North Carolina because women’s lives depend on it.”

The most significant change in the new law moves restrictions on abortions from 20 weeks to 12 weeks, while providing new exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal abnormality. The bill also retains an exception to protect the life of the mother.

In comparison to its state neighbors:

  • Tennessee bans abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. Southern states Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi are the same.
  • Georgia’s gestational limit makes abortion legal until about six weeks; an appeal to a state Supreme Court ruling reinstating the ban is proceeding. The six-week timeframe is generally considered in line with detection of a heartbeat. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed similar legislation that is awaiting review by the state Supreme Court; this could change the 15-week threshold in place.
  • South Carolina allows abortion until 22 weeks, though future changes are possible. The state Supreme Court, in January, said a ban after six weeks was unconstitutional and lawmakers are crafting new legislation.
  • Virginia allows abortion and likely will until at least another election, though state funds cannot be used to cover the costs. The state Legislature is split, and there’s an election in November.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade in June to return abortion authority to states, several have, or are trying, to ban the practice at the first detection of a heartbeat, typically about six weeks.

Fourteen states have bans on abortion throughout pregnancy. The 12-week threshold is in line with more than 20 European countries.

Tuesday’s override is the second of the current session, following votes in March to reverse Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 41 to repeal the state’s 110-year-old pistol purchase permit.

Cooper has issued 77 vetoes – more than twice as many as the previous four governors combined. The GOP lost is supermajority status in both chambers at the 2018 midterms and regained it with the combination of this past November’s midterms and the April party switch of Rep. Tricia Cotham. Cooper vetoes by legislative session have been 28 in 2017-18, 25 in 2019-20, 16 in 2021-22, six in 2022-23, and two so far in 2023-24.

Now 2-for-2 in overrides this session, Republicans are 25-for-77 against the Democrat from Nash County. Cooper is in lame duck status the next 19+ months, constitutionally limited to consecutive four-year terms.

Democrats routinely refer to the state as a 50/50 mix of voters. According to the state Board of Elections, the actual representation for more than 7.2 million registered voters as of Saturday is 35.8% unaffiliated, 33.2% Democrats and 30.2% Republicans – with trends via voter roll clean-up, new registrations and registration changes significantly hurting numbers for Democrats and boosting unaffiliateds most, with Republicans not far behind.