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North Carolina Senate overrides governor’s veto of 12-week abortion ban

The North Carolina Senate on Tuesday voted along party lines to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill banning abortion at 12 weeks. It’s the first of two steps needed to enact the Republican bill into law. 

The override effort now goes to the House, which was slated to hold its own vote after 8 p.m.  

The bill would severely restrict abortion access in the state — one of the last with access in the region since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. 

Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 20 on Saturday, which sent it back to the General Assembly. Cooper warned the legislation would make women jump through hoops to receive care and could lead to clinics closing. 

“Forward is the only way ahead, but I know one thing for certain, 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 at a veto rally in Raleigh on Saturday. “That’s exactly what this bill does.”

Abortion North Carolina
North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper ignites a crowd of about 1,000 abortion-rights supporters gathered in Raleigh, N.C., before he vetoes legislation banning nearly all abortions after 12 weeks, Saturday, May 13, 2023.

Hannah Schoenbaum / AP

Senate Bill 20 — named the Care for Women, Children and Families Act — bans abortion after 12 weeks, with limited exceptions. The state currently allows abortion through 20 weeks. It passed in the House 71 to 46 earlier this month and then the Senate 29 to 20 a day later. 

But unlike previous efforts in the legislature to restrict abortion access — only recently did North Carolina Republicans obtain a supermajority in the state legislature — giving them the ability to override the Democratic governor’s veto. 

It comes after State Representative Tricia Cotham, who represents the 112th district in Mecklenburg, announced unexpectedly in early April that she was switching parties to become a Republican. While Cotham ran as a Democrat on a platform to protect abortion rights — she voted with Republicans for the legislation. 

Now that the veto has been overridden by the Senate, it heads to the House where a vote could take place at any point, according to state legislative aides. 

With no room for error in the Republican caucuses, Democrats and abortion rights groups have been mounting a pressure campaign in the hopes that even one Republican legislator will vote against overriding the veto and leave it in place. 

While the legislation bans abortion at 12 weeks, it also requires any abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy take place in a hospital. It also restricts medication abortion to 10 weeks — or 70 days and puts additional requirements in place such as visits to a clinic and counseling. There are additional license requirements for clinics that perform abortions. 

While opponents have blasted the legislation and how it was fast-tracked through the legislative process  – proponents have praised additional resources such as increased money for contraceptives, child care, paid leave for state employees, and other provisions folded into the bill. 

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