The Republican-led General Assembly voted to override the governor’s veto on the 12-week abortion ban. Both the Senate and House voted along party lines Tuesday.
The law bans most abortions after 12 weeks in North Carolina. It goes into effect July 1.
After months of backroom negotiations, Republican leaders in the legislature unveiled their plan for a 12-week abortion ban in North Carolina. Skipping the usual process of committee hearings and debate, the House and Senate passed the bill in less than 48 hours.
Gov. Roy Cooper has vowed to veto any new abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. That was the ruling that guaranteed access to abortion nationwide. The court left the question of abortion access up to state legislatures.
The governor made good on his promise Saturday, vetoing the bill from the stage during an abortion-rights rally in downtown Raleigh.
On Tuesday, Republicans could hold together, securing three-fifths of the votes in both the House and Senate to override the veto. The Senate took up the override vote first, and the House followed.
The law bans almost all abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. It has exceptions for rape and incest, the life of the mother and “life-limiting” fetal abnormalities. It also makes medication abortion illegal after 10 weeks and adds new regulations for licensing abortion clinics.
Abortion in North Carolina is currently legal through 20 weeks of pregnancy.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement shortly after the override vote, saying in part, "President Biden and Vice President Harris will continue to work alongside Governor Cooper, state legislators, and Americans who are fighting to protect access to reproductive health care in the face of relentless attacks, and will continue to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe for all people in every state."
Some state Republicans are calling the law "compromise legislature."
“This bill is mainstream and a common-sense approach to a very difficult topic,” Sen. Vicki Sawyer, Republican representing Iredell and Mecklenburg counties, said during Tuesday’s debate.
Democrats criticized the way the bill was written behind closed doors, and that it did not get the kind of scrutiny it would have otherwise. They asked Republicans in the Senate Tuesday for more details on how the then bill’s exemptions would be interpreted and how they could play out.
“There are significant questions of interpretations of how this bill will be enforced,” said Sen. Graig Meyer, a Democrats representing Caswell, Orange and Person counties. He highlighted questions about how doctors would decide if the life of the mother was at risk.
In the House, Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican from Surry County, accused the governor and Democrats of spreading what she called “disinformation” about the bill.
“This is no ban,” she said. “Senate Bill 20 is a mainstream approach.”
But Democrats argue that the law is going to throw up more barriers for women, especially those in poor, rural areas.
“The history of abortion underscores the reality that abortion has always been with us, whether or not it’s legal,” said Rep. Laura Budd, Mecklenburg County Democrat. “Women died because they did not have access.”
Without abortion access, she said, women will turn to unregulated medications or procedures.
“The bill that’s been developed is a common-sense, reasonable approach to restricting second- and third-trimester abortions,” Senate Leader Phil Berger said when legislators introduced the now law earlier this month.
“This bill has nothing to do with making women safer and everything to do with banning abortion,” Cooper said during the rally Saturday. “How about leaving the medicine to the doctors and the decision to the women?”
The law will go into effect in North Carolina on July 1.