North Carolina's Legislature May 16 overrode the Democratic governor's veto of a 12-week abortion ban, allowing the measure to be enacted. The bill, an outlier among states that have passed abortion restrictions since Dobbs, now becomes law despite a pressure campaign from Gov. Roy Cooper for lawmakers to reject it.
The Care for Women, Children and Families Act would prohibit elective abortions after 12 weeks, as well as implement new safety requirements for abortion clinics and additional funding for resources, including adoption and foster care services, as well as some paid parental leave. The bill contains exceptions for cases of rape and incest up to 20 weeks gestation, for fetal anomalies up to 24 weeks gestation and no limitations in cases with a maternal mortality risk.
The legislation is unique among the other U.S. states that have moved to restrict abortion after the Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision in June overturned prior rulings by the high court -- including Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which had found abortion access to be a constitutional right. Of the states that have implemented new restrictions post-Dobbs, many have done so at earlier gestational stages.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the vast majority of abortions in the United States take place prior to 12 weeks gestation. In 2020, the CDC found that 80.9% of abortions were performed prior to nine weeks gestation, with 93.1% of all procedures prior to 13 weeks gestation.
Cooper made his case against the bill at a roundtable discussion May 14, arguing, "I've spent the week meeting with doctors and clinic operators who all agree that this dangerous ban would make abortion unavailable to many women and could put their lives at risk."
"Several Republican legislators campaigned on the promise to protect women's reproductive health and we want North Carolinians to ask that they keep that promise," Cooper said.
Cooper made a pitch to voters to pressure Republican state lawmakers against overriding his veto. If just one Republican legislator had not backed an override effort, the state's current 20-week ban would have remained in place.
In a press release, Cooper's office argued that a handful of Republican state lawmakers previously made comments supportive of the state's current 20-week limit, or rejected other restrictions.
“All we need is one Republican to step up," Cooper said during a May 14 interview on MSNBC.
The bill has been backed by the state's Catholic bishops. In a joint statement May 15, Bishops Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte and Luis R. Zarama of Raleigh said they "welcome the (bill's) increased protections for unborn human lives."
"We also welcome the millions of dollars of funding to support mothers and families included in this bill," the bishops said. "Together these provisions represent progress toward building a culture of life in North Carolina."
Bishops Jugis and Zarama added that "in every human life -- from the moment of conception until natural death -- the church sees the image of God and the inviolable dignity of the human person."
"This is why the Church always stands for life and calls on everyone to defend life. The Church is deeply committed through her social and pastoral outreach to caring for mothers and families at every stage of life," they said.
Arguing that "while this bill is not perfect," the bishops nevertheless "hope it will become law to advance protection for unborn children and support for mothers in need."
Caitlin Connors, southern regional director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement that Cooper "sided with the abortion industry over the people."
"During his tour targeting legislators to uphold his veto, the governor made it abundantly clear who he was representing by holding a panel with the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood and the owner of another abortion facility," Connors said.
Calling it "alarming" that Cooper did so during Mother's Day weekend, Connors argued "the leader of the purple state of North Carolina is using his political power to serve the financial interests of abortion executives, rather than to represent the consensus on late term abortions, establish paid parental leave for teachers and establish a game-changing amount of funding for childcare."