The GOP-controlled North Carolina General Assembly on Tuesday evening overrode a veto from the governor on a bill that prohibits abortions after 12 weeks and imposes more restrictions on providers and patients.
The lower chamber’s vote came after the state Senate voted to override the veto earlier Tuesday. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) had vetoed the bill over the weekend, lambasting Republicans for including “medically unnecessary obstacles and restrictions.”
North Carolina had allowed for abortions up to 20 weeks, but that time frame is now reduced to 12 weeks as the bill becomes law.
The 12-week ban is set to go into effect immediately. Some provisions will go into effect later this year, such as heightened restrictions on administering medical abortions and licensing requirements for new abortion facilities.
However, N.C. Democratic lawmakers have argued the law actually limits abortions to a shorter time frame, owing to how it reduces when medical abortions can be performed to 10 weeks. Medical abortions account for more than half of all abortions in the U.S.
Abortion clinics are now vulnerable to losing their licensing with the enactment of this bill as it allows the North Carolina Medical Care Commission to “adopt, amend and appeal” the rules applied to such facilities.
Republicans in the state have framed this bill as a compromise or middle ground, arguing that a 12-week limit does not go as far as other abortion bills passed in GOP-led states and have also pointed to the provisions that incentivize health care, child care and provide free contraception.
The vote was not unexpected, with the North Carolina GOP having a veto-proof majority in the legislature after state Rep. Tricia Cotham switched over to the Republicans Party a few months following her election.
Cooper had appealed to constituents in districts represented by GOP lawmakers, urging them to call on their representatives to vote against the bill, but no legislators came forward before it was overridden.
Democrats in North Carolina have few options in fighting this vote. While they may be able to delay its enactment through lower courts for a short time, conservative justices have had a supermajority in the state’s supreme court ever since November when two Republicans claimed seats on the bench.
In the long term, North Carolina Democrats plan to use this vote to bring about a referendum at the ballots in 2024, possibly taking down the conservative supermajority.
“I think that this will fuel everything going into 2024,” Anderson Clayton, chairperson of the North Carolina Democratic Party, said. “This is a health care decision for women and for people who have babies. And I think that there’s a lack of willingness to believe that people across North Carolina are going to stand up in 2024 against this, but I fully expect them to.”