Gov. Cooper finishes roundtable tour against proposed abortion restrictions

Michael Perchick Image
Friday, May 12, 2023
Governor Cooper holds final roundtable discussion on abortion bill
Senate Bill 20 would ban most abortions after 12 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or if a mother’s life is in danger.

GIBSONVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Governor Roy Cooper finished the final part of a three-day tour of roundtables to express concerns with Senate Bill 20, which would ban most abortions in the state after twelve weeks.

Last Tuesday, Republicans announced an agreement within their own party on abortion restrictions, which provides exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities or if a mother's life is in danger.

The 46-page bill was passed on party lines in both chambers within 48 hours, with Democrats expressing concerns regarding both the text of the legislation and how it was initially introduced.

"If it was a reasonable compromise, why did it come out in the middle of the night? Why was there a requirement of no amendments? Why was there no public input," said Cooper Thursday morning in Gibsonville.

"In a nutshell, SB 20 really just puts extra barriers in the path of people trying to access abortion services," added Alison Kaiser, senior director of external affairs with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

Opponents of the legislation believe measures which require counseling and in-person appointments would greatly impact access to the procedure, especially within underserved communities.

"The number of administrative burdens introduced in this bill will make it impossible or incredibly difficult for my patients to access care. I think this is a dangerous bill," said Dr. Jonas Swartz, a Duke Health OBGYN.

"This bill will severely hinder my ability to take care of my patients and will negatively impact the patient and physician relationship," explained Dr. April Miller, an OBGYN in Winston-Salem.

Supporters point to nearly $160 million in funding towards resources including adoption tax credits, foster care, paid maternity leave and contraceptives, saying they believe the bill is mainstream.

Cooper has publicly called out Rep. Ted Davis, Jr., Senator Michael Lee, Rep. John Bradford III, and Rep. Tricia Cotham, Republican lawmakers who had previously voiced support for abortion rights, choosing to hold this week's events in areas in which they represent.

As a Democrat, Cotham was a co-sponsor of a bill in January which would codify abortion rights; three months later, she switched parties, giving Republicans a supermajority. Her backing of the bill represents a marked shift, as she publicly discussed her own abortion on the House floor in 2015.

Sen. Lee responded to the Governor, saying he's been consistent in his viewpoints, sharing a guest column he wrote last September in the Wilmington Star-News, noting in part:

"I am against bans in the first trimester but believe second- and third-trimester abortions - when the baby can feel pain, has a beating heart, ten fingers, and ten toes - are abhorrent and should be restricted. It also means I support exceptions for rape, incest, and to save the mother's life - as do the majority of Americans."

The NCGOP responded to efforts to rally support against the bill, tweeting Wednesday:

"Democrats Roy Cooper and Josh Stein are leading a fear campaign to mask their own extreme position on abortion. The pandering culminates in a manufactured rally to veto the widely supported Care for Women, Children and Families Act... on Mother's Day Weekend."

Democrats would need just one lawmaker in either chamber to join to uphold the veto. At this point, no Republicans have publicly wavered on their support, as the veto deadline is just three days away.

"It's going to create significant obstacles for women. It's going to create obstacles for doctors," Cooper asserted.