This story originally published online at NC Newsline.
A Republican bill banning most abortions in North Carolina after 12 weeks of pregnancy won Senate approval in a 29-20, party-line vote Thursday.
The state House passed the bill late Wednesday night, so it will soon land on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. Cooper, a Democrat, has said he will veto the measure. The bill will likely become law anyway. Republicans have veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate.
Republican lawmakers argued that their bill reflected accepted public positions on abortion. However, a Meredith College Poll this year found that most registered voters want to keep state law as it is or lift some restrictions.
Democratic senators said that if Republicans truly thought their bill was popular, they would not have released the 46-page bill the middle of the night, avoided the usual committee process, and rushed to approve it in two days.
Senate Bill 20 would ban abortions after 12 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, life-threatening fetal anomalies or if the pregnant woman has a medical emergency. Current law bans abortion after 20 weeks with exceptions for urgent medical emergencies.
Cases of rape and incest would not need to be reported to law enforcement as a requirement for an abortion through the 20th week, but Democrats on the House side could not exact a promise during their Wednesday night debate that such a requirement would not be added in the future.
The legislation also adds more required doctors’ visits for people with early pregnancies who use abortion pills. The clinics Planned Parenthood South Atlantic runs would not meet new licensing requirements the bill imposes.
The Senate debate was emotional at times, with some lawmakers crying or appearing close to tears as they spoke.
“Love this state, North Carolina native, but I’m absolutely horrified. Horrified at the prospect of having a child in my home state. I’m horrified,” said Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham) as she worried about how she might be treated under the bill should a medical emergency arise during a pregnancy.
The Senate debate lasted for hours as each Democrats took turns talking.
Democrats argued that the bill was taking away a right that women have had for decades, and would make abortions that would remain legal much harder to obtain.
The state’s dismal Black maternal and infant mortality rates ran as a theme through Democrats’ argument that the restrictions would fall hardest on Black women and women who live in rural counties.
“Personal freedoms and rights should not be up for negotiation,” said Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Guilford County Democrat. “It is insulting to claim that this bill is going to save lives” when Republicans have ignored the state’s high rates of Black infant and maternal mortality, she said. “It’s not abortion that’s killing them. It’s your policies.”
Senate Democrats tried to derail consideration of the bill, but didn’t have enough votes to stop it. Sen. Joyce Krawiec, one of the Republican women designated as a leader on the legislation, had some trouble answering questions about the details. Krawiec said she saw the bill in its entirety for the first time when it became public.
Republicans repeatedly objected to Democrats describing the bill as a ban.
“It’s not a ban, it’s a plan for abortion,” Sen. Vicki Sawyer, an Iredell Republican, said at one point.
Democrats continued to call the legislation a ban. “I’m not going to let them distract me with silly arguments,” said Sen. Natasha Marcus, a Mecklenburg County Democrat.
A protester was removed from the Senate gallery Thursday morning. After the vote, Senate leader Phil Berger had everyone removed from the gallery as people began to chant “Shame. Shame. Shame.”
The North Carolina Medical Society had opposed the legislation noting numerous policy changes that would place burdensome restrictions on patient access to reproductive care.
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