NC House and Senate override Cooper's abortion bill veto, measure becomes law

Wednesday, May 17, 2023
NC House and Senate override Cooper's abortion bill veto, measure becomes law
Both chambers in the state legislature successfully overrode Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of a bill limiting abortion on Tuesday, enabling the legislation to become law.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Both chambers in the state legislature successfully overrode Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of a bill limiting abortion on Tuesday, enabling the legislation to become law.

The House took up the debate Tuesday evening, hours after the Senate successfully overrode the governor's veto. The vote was 72-48 as GOP members withstood heavy and vocal opposition from critics desperate to uphold Cooper's veto.

The Democratic governor immediately released a statement reacting to the Republican-led effort that resulted in new abortion parameters for the state.

"Strong majorities of North Carolinians don't want right-wing politicians in the exam room with women and their doctors, which is even more understandable today after several Republican lawmakers broke their promises to protect women's reproductive freedom," Cooper said. "For the last two weeks, Republican sponsors of this abortion ban have strenuously argued that it is much less restrictive than we warned, so we will now do everything in our power to make sure that's true.

The governor added that abortion-rights advocates are "energized to fight back."

"I will continue doing everything I can to protect abortion access in North Carolina because women's lives depend on it," Cooper said.

U.S. Rep. Wiley Nickel, D-NC-13. echoed Cooper's vow, saying he would "continue to fight for reproductive freedom and work to codify the protections of Roe vs. Wade into law."

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-NC 28, told ABC11 that "this abortion ban will especially harm people who live in rural areas, people working to make ends meet and people who historically lack access to affordable healthcare."

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland said by overriding the veto and enacting the "Care for Women, Children, and Families Act," the House "has affirmed the value of human life."

"I am proud that the House has overridden the Governor's veto of this meaningful, mainstream legislation," Moore said. "Senate Bill 20 will save lives and provide needed support for women and families while putting North Carolina's abortion law in line with most of the rest of the free world."

The override now moves to the North Carolina House, which could vote as early as Tuesday night.

Earlier Tuesday, the North Carolina Senate overrode the veto of Senate Bill 20, which adds further restrictions to women seeking abortion care in North Carolina.

The final count on the veto override was 30-20 with all Senate Republicans in favor and Democrats voting against override.

The House also voted along party lines. That meant new limitations on women seeking abortions and medical professionals performing those abortions will become law in the state.

Democrats lined up to quickly condemn the developments.

"Today, North Carolina Republicans made the decision to politically interfere with a woman's right to bodily autonomy and erode our reproductive rights that generations of women before us fought for adamantly," said Congresswoman Valerie Foushee, who represents Durham as part of NC District 4. "This extreme bill will not only turn back the clock on years of progress, but it will disproportionately impact women of color and leave thousands across our state vulnerable."

Congresswoman Deborah Ross, District 2, accused Republicans of betraying the people of North Carolina.

"In the two weeks since Republican leaders announced a backroom deal to pass a radical abortion ban, North Carolinians have organized, protested, and demonstrated," Ross said. "They made one thing abundantly clear - the people of our state do not support this dangerous effort to restrict our rights and our health care."

Supporters of the legislation touted the passage as a new era that was a long time coming and lauded Republican leaders for getting the bill into law.

"Today marks the beginning of North Carolina's first real step toward becoming a pro-life state," said NC Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald. "Pro-life North Carolinians have waited over 50 years to roll back the gestational age for sanctioned killing of pre-born children. With this veto override, legislators have rejected Governor Cooper's extreme, unreasonable position of abortion without restriction up to birth."

Fitzgerald noted that the new law provides $160 million in funding to help pregnant mothers including $75 million for childcare, $59 million for foster care, kinship care and children's homes among other provisions.

"We sincerely thank Senator Berger, Speaker Moore, and Republican legislators for standing strong and voting on behalf of the 62% of North Carolinians who reject abortion after 12 weeks," she added.

Rep.Kristin Baker, R-NC 82, echoed that the bill made "medical sense."

"Senate Bill 20 is common sense," Baker said. "It balances protecting the life of the unborn child."

Before the vote, state Senators spent time questioning each other about what the bill would do and how they would vote. But ultimately, that proved to be just political theater -- as each member of the Senate fell in line with their party.

The four female Republican state Senators -- Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, Lisa Barnes (R-Nash), Amy Galey (R-Alamance), and Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) -- released the following statement after the veto override vote:

"This is a monumental moment for women, children, and families in North Carolina. Our bill puts to rest all of the noise and lies we've been hearing this past week, and brings to life a culture that cherishes motherhood and saves the lives of the unborn."

Senate Bill 20 bans most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy and adds more stringent regulations and processes for all abortions in the state.

"Today will go down as a shameful loss of freedom in our state. But make no mistake - this is only the beginning," said NC Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat who is running for governor.

Cooper vetoed the bill during the weekend in an unconventionally public ceremony after spending last week traveling across the state trying to convince one or more Republicans to uphold his expected veto.

WATCH: Cooper vetoes GOP abortion bill

Gov Roy Cooper held a rally in downtown Raleigh to sign a veto of the Republican plan to limit abortions further in NC

He singled out four GOP lawmakers - one in the Senate and three in the House - whom he said made "campaign promises" to protect abortion access. Among them is Rep. Tricia Cotham, whose recent switch from the Democratic Party to the GOP gave House Republicans the one additional vote they needed for veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

"It is shameful to see Republican members John Bradford, Tricia Cotham, Ted Davis, and Michael Lee flip-flop and betray their constituents to toe the party line," North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton said Tuesday night.

Cotham issued a lengthy statement about her decision to stick with her new party and vote for override. She called SB20 "a reasonable balance" on the abortion issue, one that represents a middle ground.

"I understand that there are extremists on both sides of the abortion issue," Cotham said. "Some of the absolutists believe abortion is unacceptable in any circumstance and some of the absolutists believe aborting a perfectly healthy child in the 40th week of pregnancy is morally acceptable. I cannot support either of these extreme positions.

"I -- like most North Carolinians -- think abortion is a complicated issue without absolute answers," Cotham added. "Abortion is an unpleasant subject for many women, and I know of no woman that considered having an abortion that did so flippantly or unseriously. Despite what some people on the fringes may claim, contemplating an abortion is a grave decision, not a choice I've ever known anyone to celebrate."

Below: Read Cotham's full statement

Lee, another lawmaker who previously vowed to protect abortion rights, defended his override decision.

"This is not just about one life," said Lee, who represents District 7. "At some point in this process, we have to think about the child. I don't know where that is for y'all."

Both the House and Senate passed the bill along party lines this month, signaling that an override had a chance to be successful.

Republicans said the measure is a middle-ground change to state abortion laws developed after months of private negotiations between their House and Senate members. It adds exceptions to the 12-week ban, extending the limit through 20 weeks for cases of rape and incest and through 24 weeks for "life-limiting" fetal anomalies.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of NC Values Coalition joined ABC11 to voice support about the new law

Tami Fitzgerald of NC Values Coalition joins ABC11 to talk about the override of NC's new abortion bill.

Molly Rivera, communications director of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, also joined ABC11 to speak against the changes

Molly Rivera, communications director of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, also joined ABC11 to speak against the changes

Cooper repeatedly said the details contained in the 47-page bill show that the measure is not a reasonable compromise and would instead greatly erode reproductive rights for North Carolinians and others who have become dependent on the state for abortions later in pregnancy.

Democratic Rep. Marcia Morey of District 30, said the bill isn't "just a ban on abortion after 12 weeks. It's a denial to women who want to give birth to a healthy baby but medically cannot."

Things got deeply personal for Rep. Diamond Staton Williams, D-NC 73.

"After much consideration, thought, and of course prayer, we decided as a family unit to make the decision to schedule an D& C and for most of you who are not in the medical field that is an abortion," Staton Williams said. "We made that decision with our doctor, not an easy decision at all. It was not made lightly or frivolously."

As Democrats vowed to keep fighting, supporters of the legislation promised to do the same.

"We are grateful for the actions to take North Carolina off the map as a destination for abortion," said Jason Williams, Executive Director of NC Faith & Freedom Coalition. "(We) will continue our work to encourage all families to choose to celebrate the blessing of a new child by supporting our state's pregnancy centers and advocating for future heartbeat legislation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.