NC House, Senate leadership announce bill limiting abortion to 12 weeks

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Wednesday, May 3, 2023
New bill in NC legislature would limit abortions
NC House and Senate leaders announced a deal on abortion legislation limiting the procedure to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in most cases.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina House and Senate Republican leaders announced that they have reached a deal on a bill to narrow parameters for abortion and promote the health of women and children.

The "Care for Women, Children, and Families Act is Senate Bill 20 and would limit most abortions to 12 weeks of pregnancy, establish an exception for rape and incest through 20 weeks, and establish an exception for fetal life-limiting anomalies through 24 weeks.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger announced at an early-evening news conference that there's consensus between Republicans in the state House and Senate.


"The 'Care for Women, Children, and Families Act' is reasonable, commonsense legislation that will protect more lives than at any point in the last 50 years," said Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth. "We are beginning the process of creating a culture that values life, and that's something we can all be incredibly proud of."

Democrats moved quickly to condemn the proposal.

"It's unfortunate that once again, the Republican majority in Raleigh is pushing extreme restrictions on abortion and working to criminalize women's health care decisions," said Congressman Wiley Nickel said. "The people of North Carolina's 13th District sent me to Congress to fight for their personal rights and freedoms, not to strip them away. I'll work with every ounce of my energy to fight for reproductive freedom and codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law."

Congresswoman Deborah Ross, D-District 2, called it a "tragic day for the women of North Carolina."

"I fear for our sisters and daughters, who have been forced to fight for access to abortion care every single day since the Dobbs decision," Ross said in a statement. "I am scared for women across the South, who have looked to North Carolina as a safe haven to get the health care they need. Today, North Carolina Republicans have shown where their priorities lie: controlling women and our bodies. This extreme abortion ban is out of touch with the needs of women and the will of the people of our great state."

New healthcare standards included in the bill would require all clinics that perform surgical abortions to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and that any abortions performed after the first trimester must be performed in hospitals.

"NC Values believes life begins at conception, and that life is a human right. Although the General Assembly opted to limit abortion at 12 weeks, we are grateful more babies will be protected by moving the limit from 20 weeks back to 12 weeks," said NC Values Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald. "In addition, there are tremendous provisions in the bill that protect the health and safety of women and preventing the brutal, painful practice of late-term abortion. It would also protect babies who are born alive as the result of a botched abortion. The pro-life community cares about both women and their precious babies."

The proposal would require that doctors provide care to babies that survive botched procedures. Abortions based on a baby's sex, race, or presence of Down syndrome would be prohibited.

It also mandates that an "extensive informed consent process must be completed in person, 72 hours prior to any surgical or medical abortion."

"Women have been at the center of this debate for so long, and we finally have the opportunity to give women the options they deserve," said Sen. Lisa Barnes, R-Nash. "The 'Care for Women, Children, and Families Act' provides women with care, support, and protections, and welcomes them to motherhood with open arms."

WATCH: News news conference by NC GOP leaders

Full news conference: NC GOP leaders announce a proposal to further limit abortions

Final votes for the agreed-upon legislation would occur Wednesday in the House and Thursday in the Senate, legislators said. Moore's office said the bill will be discussed in the Joint Rules Committee Wednesday at 9 a.m.

The bill also contains provisions to make adoptions easier and to improve healthcare access for children and pregnant women.

"It's time for North Carolina to take the next step forward in honoring the sanctity of human life," Krawiec said, and she added that the bill "will undoubtedly save lives and improve health outcomes for many pregnant women."

The final measure would go to the desk of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. He said in December he would consider it extreme to ban abortion after less than 20 weeks.

In a fundraising email to supporters late Tuesday, Cooper called the bill "an egregious, unacceptable attack on the women of our state." Cooper campaigned last fall for legislative candidates that he said would help uphold his vetoes on abortion.

"Everyone deserves the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures," said Liz Barber, ACLU of North Carolina Senior Policy Counsel. "Exercising that fundamental right requires safe, legal and equitable access to reproductive health care, including abortion. A person's health should guide important medical decisions throughout their pregnancy, not politics. Don't be fooled. This bill is neither moderate nor a compromise."

But Republicans now hold veto-proof majorities in both General Assembly chambers after then-Democratic Rep. Tricia Cotham, of Mecklenburg County, switched to the Republican Party last month.

Cotham has declined to say publicly whether she would be willing to vote for new restrictions. If she doesn't vote for the bill, some House Democrats likely would have to vote for an override or be absent for Republicans to overcome a Cooper veto.

House and Senate Republicans have been working for months toward a consensus to further act upon last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. At the time of the ruling last June, abortions were legal in North Carolina until fetal viability, which generally falls between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, or in certain medical emergencies. That made North Carolina a locale for abortion access for those traveling from other Southern states where abortion was already banned.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic spokesperson Jillian Riley argued that the restrictions would have "detrimental effects" on the health of North Carolina residents and others from the Southeast. Other critics complained about how the agreement was worked out privately among Republicans over several months without formal public input.

"The people of North Carolina are taking witness, they are listening, they are watching," Riley told reporters. "They do not want any more bans on abortion care. We will remember who voted to strip away legal abortion in North Carolina."

The Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America rejected that notion, citing a small-size poll that showed that nearly two-thirds (62%) of voters in the state support protecting unborn children at 12 weeks.

"Allowing abortion up to 20 weeks - halfway through pregnancy and well past the point science shows an unborn child can feel pain - is not acceptable to the people of North Carolina," said Caitlin Connors, Southern Regional Director for SBA Pro-Life America. "We're talking about human beings with beating hearts and unique facial features, who suck their thumbs and react to touch. We urge the legislature to update the laws to reflect science and the will of the people."

Republican leadership also said the measure was a $160 million investment in childcare access, maternal health care, and paid parental leave for teachers and state employees. The bill includes millions of dollars in funding for foster care families and parents who are working to finish community college.

It also sets aside more funds for nonprofits known as crisis pregnancy centers, which are often religiously affiliated and encourage clients against having abortions as part of their free but limited services.

"This is a pro-women and holistic approach," said Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Surry County Republican and the House's No. 2 leader. "It's equipped with as much information, as many options as we could give at this point, and focuses on the health and safety of the child."

The Associated Press contributed.