The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

N.C. governor vetoes 12-week abortion ban, setting up fight with GOP lawmakers

Republicans hold veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature and could override his veto

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) spoke with obstetricians at a rally on Saturday after he vetoed state legislation limiting most abortions. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)
3 min

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on Saturday vetoed a 12-week abortion ban that the state legislature passed, setting up a confrontation between the state’s competing parties and branches of government.

“It will make abortion unavailable to many women, particularly those with lower incomes, those who live in rural areas and those who already have limited access to health care. Therefore, I veto this bill,” Cooper said to raucous applause from abortion rights supporters who came to a rally in the state capital of Raleigh.

The veto faces a steep battle: Republicans hold veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers in the North Carolina legislature and could override his veto to enact the abortion ban. However, Cooper and the state’s abortion rights supporters hope to sway a Republican lawmaker in either chamber to allow the state’s current abortion law — which allows most people to get abortions for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy — to stand.

The 12-week ban, known as Senate Bill 20, was rapidly pushed through both chambers on May 4 in a 48-hour process that circumvented the usual process for legislation in the state. It is not as restrictive as some other states’ proposals, including the six-week ban that failed in Nebraska and the near-total ban that failed to advance in South Carolina.

The bill includes exceptions, allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy and for life-threatening fetal anomalies up to 24 weeks. It adds tens of millions of dollars toward maternal health and child care.

But the measure also has several other restrictions and conditions that abortion rights lawmakers and activists oppose. They include requiring patients to have an additional in-person consultation before an abortion and increased regulations for clinics that could threaten the licenses of those that can’t afford major upgrades.

The popularity of the new bill isn’t reflected in the state’s public opinion, according to the polling firm PRRI. It found only 33 percent of North Carolinians favored or strongly favored the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion ruling, last year.

States where abortion is legal, banned or under threat

Cooper has his sights set on four state Republican lawmakers who previously expressed support for the current law to help uphold his veto: Sen. Michael Lee, Rep. Ted Davis, Rep. John Bradford and Rep. Tricia Cotham, a former Democrat who spoke on the North Carolina House floor in 2015 about her own experience getting an abortion. Cotham, who just recently switched her affiliation to the Republican Party, voted in favor of the 12-week ban.

“What we’re going to do is call them out. Look, there are four Republicans, four Republicans, who said they would protect women’s reproductive freedom during the campaign,” Cooper said earlier this week on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “All we need is one of them. We can block this disastrous legislation and then we can wait for the next battle.”

Abortion access in America

Tracking abortion access in the U.S.: After the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the legality of abortion is left to individual states. The Post is tracking states where abortion is banned, under threat or is a protected right.

Abortion pills: The Justice Department appealed a Texas judge’s decision that would block approval of the abortion pill mifepristone. The Supreme Court decided to retain full access to mifepristone as the appeal proceeds. Here’s an explanation of what happens next in the abortion pill case.

Post-Roe America: With Roe overturned, women who had secret abortions before Roe v. Wade felt compelled to speak out. Other women who were seeking abortions while living in states with strict abortion bans also shared their experiences with The Post through calls, text messages and other documentation. Here are photos and stories from across America since the reversal of Roe v. Wade.