NC abortion legal battle looms amid standoff between AG and GOP

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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North Carolina's top Republicans reiterated their abortion ultimatum to Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein -- demanding he go to court to have the block lifted on the state's 20-week abortion ban -- or they would do it themselves.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- On Jones Street on Tuesday, North Carolina's top Republicans reiterated their abortion ultimatum to Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein -- demanding he go to court to have the block lifted on the state's 20-week abortion ban -- or they would do it themselves.

"So we've not at this point received a response from the attorney general's office," Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said at an afternoon news conference. "If we don't receive a response by July 1, then we will engage in other steps to have North Carolina law ban abortions after 20 weeks."

In a social media post lamenting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling reversing federal protections for abortions, Stein did not reveal his plans for enforcing the state restrictions. But, an AG's office spokesperson told the News & Observer that Stein will issue a response this week.

Stein finds himself in a similar position to Iowa's Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller. When that state's Republican governor and the legislature demanded he go to court to overturn Iowa's abortion ban, Miller withdrew from the case, claiming it undermined women's rights.

A Republican lawyer has taken up Iowa's case pro-bono.

Tuesday, Berger suggested GOP lawyers are ready to take North Carolina's case if Stein refuses.

"We would not need to have a special session. There are other avenues for us to deal with that," Berger said.

Wake County Democratic Sen. Jay Chaudhuri launched a new campaign ad this week -- a claim that an all-out abortion ban in North Carolina could come soon if Republican lawmakers win enough seats in November to override a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat.

"The only thing standing between North Carolina women and a law criminalizing abortion are 22 Democratic senators. We cant. Lose. One.," the ad said.

Republicans currently hold 69 seats at the state House, three seats short of a supermajority. In the state Senate, the 28 Republicans are two seats short of being veto-proof.

"When we come back next year, we'll have a new General Assembly and that General Assembly will make a decision as to whether or not it wants to do anything different," Berger said.

The legislative short session wraps up at the end of the week. Berger ruled out the prospect of calling lawmakers back to Raleigh for a special session to craft new abortion law this year. However, everything is on the table come January when Republicans hope to have their supermajorities back in place.