Gov. Cooper weighs in on the looming abortion battle at General Assembly

Joel Brown Image
Friday, December 16, 2022
Gov. Cooper weighs in on the looming abortion battle
In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision sending the issue of abortion rights back to the states, the election triggered immediate concerns in Raleigh from abortion rights advocates.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- There's a looming fight over abortion rights in North Carolina. Six months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade, North Carolina has become a safe haven for women seeking abortion access. But while the procedure remains legal here, state lawmakers are preparing to consider new restrictions when they return to Raleigh in the new year.

Republicans return to the legislature next month, newly empowered by November's elections. The GOP regained a supermajority in the senate and came one vote shy of that in the house. For the first time in four years, anti-abortion Republicans have a legitimate shot at overriding a veto from Governor Roy Cooper, an abortion rights-supporting Democrat.

"Today's a good day in North Carolina to be a Republican," Phil Berger, the Republican Senate Leader, said with a smile the day after the GOP's big election night wins.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision sending the issue of abortion rights back to the states, the election triggered immediate concerns in Raleigh from abortion rights advocates like Tara Romano, executive director of Pro Choice NC.

"We're definitely going to be working to ensure that (abortion rights survive the next legislative session)," Romano told ABC 11. "We know (new abortion restriction legislation) is going to be coming. And we anticipate it'll come relatively early in the session."

State law currently restricts abortion after 20 weeks. Berger told reporters over the summer that he believes abortion should be banned after the first trimester -- typically 13 weeks. House Speaker, Republican Tim Moore said previously that he's in favor of even earlier restrictions: after a heartbeat can be detected.

"I will tell you for all intents and purposes, we have a governing supermajority. We have a handful of democrats who work with us," Moore said in November about the prospect of luring moderate Democrats to vote for new restrictions.

At the Executive Mansion, Governor Cooper is bracing for a fight.

"It's amazing how (Republicans) are tossing around numbers of weeks when you're talking about women's reproductive freedom," Cooper said. "I think North Carolina's law is strict enough."

Ahead of next month's legislative session, Tami Fitzgerald and her Christian conservative NC Values Coalition is busy lobbying for much stricter restrictions.

"We believe life begins at conception. But we are willing to compromise," Fitzgerald said. "Women are coming across our borders to have abortions here in North Carolina. And that grieves me."

Fitzgerald would like a total ban on abortion here. But the group would compromise for the so-called "heartbeat ban:" no abortions after six weeks.

"It's a ban that occurs very early and a lot of people don't necessarily know they're pregnant by six weeks," Romano said. "It's definitely can be a functional ban on abortion."

Fitzgerald believes the votes will be there.

"We believe that there are some Democrats that will vote on this issue the right way. Because they know what the truth is and they have a conscious about what their faith tells them about life," she said.

Back at the Governor's Mansion, Cooper said, "I don't know what kind of legislation that they're going to come up with. But I hope that we will be able to stop it."

Five Thirty Eight surveyed reported abortions in the two months prior to the Dobbs decision compared to the two months after. It found for women in the south, North Carolina and Florida were the nearest states where abortion remained legal: Over 1,800 more abortions were performed in North Carolina during that period.

While North Carolina is a southern safe haven now for abortion, it may not be for long.

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