RALEIGH, N.C. — Legislation banning most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy will become law in North Carolina after the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly successfully overrode the Democratic governor’s veto late Tuesday.
The House completed the second and final part of the override vote Tuesday night after a similar three-fifths majority voted for the override earlier Tuesday in the Senate. The outcome represents a major victory for Republican legislative leaders who needed every GOP member on board to enact the law over Gov. Roy Cooper’s opposition.
Republicans have pitched the measure as a middle-ground change to state law, which currently bans nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions for rape or incest.
The vote came as abortion rights in the U.S. faced another tectonic shift with lawmakers considering sharply limiting abortion both in North Carolina and South Carolina, two of the few remaining Southern states with relatively easy access.
Nebraska joined the two states in debating abortion restrictions Tuesday that are possible because the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which established a nationwide right to abortion.
Under another bill up for a vote Tuesday in the South Carolina House, abortion access would be almost entirely banned after about six weeks of pregnancy — before women often know they’re pregnant. The South Carolina state Senate previously rejected a proposal to nearly outlaw abortions.
Abortion is banned or severely restricted in much of the South and is now banned throughout pregnancy in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. In Georgia, it’s allowed only in the first six weeks.
The Carolinas, Florida and Virginia are now the main destinations in the region for those seeking legal abortions. Florida has a ban that kicks in 15 weeks into pregnancy. Under a recent law, that would tighten to six weeks pending a court ruling. Further west, women often travel to Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico or Colorado.
Nationally, bans on abortion throughout pregnancy are in effect in 14 states.
If both the North and South Carolina bans become law, combined with Florida’s recent ban, “it would be just devastating for abortion access in the South,” Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said Tuesday.
During the North Carolina Senate debate, Republicans said Cooper ignored $160 million within the measure that would boost funding to increase contraceptive services, reduce infant and maternal mortality and provide paid maternity leave for state employees and teachers.
“North Carolinians watching this debate, you are bearing witness to exaggerated and extremist objections from some Democrats,” Republican Sen. Vickie Sawyer of Iredell County said. “Their anger is that this bill is mainstream and a common-sense approach to a very difficult topic.”
Democrats focused on details of the abortion rules, which they said would place barriers between women and their doctors, leaving those who are pregnant in danger.
And the 12-week cutoff means that young women will have potentially only a couple of weeks to decide whether an abortion is the right decision, leading them to continue with unwanted pregnancies, Democratic Sen. Natasha Marcus of Mecklenburg County said.
“This bill is a slap in the face. It is a muzzle over our mouths, and it is a straitjacket on our bodies,” Marcus said. After the Senate vote, loud chants of “Shame!” could be heard outside the chamber doors.
Anti-abortion protesters who arrived hours before the vote packed the North Carolina Senate gallery, with about 150 supporters of the proposed ban holding identical “Vote Pro-Life” signs.
“So many Republicans have just keeled over from pressure from all the groups who are just filled with hate and are pushing things that are going against God,” said Sharon Dooley, 63, of Garner, North Carolina.