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North Carolina General Assembly overrides governor's veto of 12-week abortion ban

North Carolina's 12-week abortion ban
North Carolina GOP overrides governor's veto to ban most abortions after 12 weeks 02:51

Both the North Carolina Senate and House voted Tuesday along party lines to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of a bill banning abortion at 12 weeks

The bill now becomes law and takes effect July 1. It severely restricts abortion access in the state — one of the last which had access in the region since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. 

Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 20 on Saturday, which sent it back to the General Assembly. Cooper warned the legislation would make women jump through hoops to receive care and could lead to clinics closing. 

"Forward is the only way ahead, but I know one thing for certain, standing in the way of progress right now is this Republican supermajority legislature that only took 48 hours to turn the clock back 50 years on women's health," Cooper said at a veto rally in Raleigh on Saturday. "That's exactly what this bill does."

Abortion North Carolina
North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper ignites a crowd of about 1,000 abortion-rights supporters gathered in Raleigh, N.C., before he vetoes legislation banning nearly all abortions after 12 weeks, Saturday, May 13, 2023. Hannah Schoenbaum / AP

Cooper decried the override in a statement Tuesday night, saying, "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."

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement called the law a "dangerous bill that is out of touch with the majority of North Carolinians and will make it even more difficult for women to get the reproductive health care they need."

Senate Bill 20 — named the Care for Women, Children and Families Act — bans abortion after 12 weeks, with limited exceptions. The state currently allows abortion through 20 weeks. It passed in the House 71 to 46 earlier this month and then the Senate 29 to 20 a day later. 

But unlike previous efforts in the legislature to restrict abortion access — only recently did North Carolina Republicans obtain a supermajority in the state legislature — which gave them the ability to override the Democratic governor's veto. 

State Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said in his own statement that he was "proud" that the veto was overridden, calling the new law "meaningful, mainstream legislation."

North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton called it "dangerous legislation that puts politicians in the middle of deeply personal health care decisions and abandons the medical advice of doctors who urged lawmakers to stop this ban."

It comes after State Representative Tricia Cotham, who represents the 112th district in Mecklenburg, announced unexpectedly in early April that she was switching parties to become a Republican. While Cotham ran as a Democrat on a platform to protect abortion rights — she voted with Republicans for the legislation. 

With no room for error in the Republican caucuses, Democrats and abortion rights groups unsuccessfully mounted a pressure campaign in the hopes that even one Republican legislator would vote against overriding the veto and leave it in place. 

While the legislation bans abortion at 12 weeks, it also requires any abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy take place in a hospital. It also requires a physician to verify the gestational age of a fetus is under 10 weeks for a medication abortion — or 70 days — and puts additional requirements in place such as visits to a clinic and counseling. There are additional license requirements for clinics that perform abortions.

Although opponents have blasted the legislation and how it was fast-tracked through the legislative process  – proponents have praised additional resources such as increased money for contraceptives, child care, paid leave for state employees, and other provisions folded into the bill. 

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