RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The North Carolina Senate voted 29-20 on Thursday to approve a sweeping bill that will ban abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The North Carolina Senate created new exceptions before the bill passed.
Immediately after the Senate vote, pro-choice protesters in the gallery repeatedly shouted, “Abortion rights now!” Senate Majority leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) then had the gallery cleared.
Lawmakers in the state House passed Senate Bill 20 by a 71-46 vote Wednesday night.
It was a packed house in the gallery of the Senate as supporters and opponents of the bill waited in anticipation.
Members of the North Carolina Values Coalition are calling this a great day for the state.
“We’re very excited about the possibility of moving NC to be a state that protects life instead of a destination for abortion,” said Tami Fitzgerald with the NC Values Coalition.
Meanwhile, the ACLU of North Carolina is calling it a tragic one. CBS 17 asked the ACLU if the group would consider filing a lawsuit if the bill becomes law.
“We never say if we’re going to file a lawsuit or not. I have not had a chance to read all 46 pages of the bill with a close enough eye to know what the lawsuit might be but I’m sure the litigators are getting ready,” Elizabeth Barber, policy counsel with the ACLU of North Carolina, said.
After Thursday’s Senate vote, Barber said that the organization was “deeply disappointed with the decision to move forward with this harmful legislation, as it represents a blatant disregard for the rights and wishes of North Carolinians,”
Both groups say today is not the end of this fight and they say they’ll continue conversations with lawmakers to push legislation for both sides of this argument.
Gov. Roy Cooper has said he will veto this bill, however, both the House and Senate have the numbers to override his vetoes.
GOP lawmakers also are promoting at least $160 million for such services as maternal health, adoption care, contraceptive services and paid leave for teachers and state employees after the birth of a child.
Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) said during Thursday’s debate that “many of us who have worked for decades to save unborn babies for the sanctity of human life, we saw it as an opportunity to put forth a very pro-life, pro-woman legislation.”
“This is a pro-life plan, not an abortion ban,” Krawiec added.
Cooper and other critics of the bill say the measure remains an attack on reproductive freedoms and denies women the ability to make their own health care choices by adding obstacles to abortions that would remain legal.
“This bill is an extreme and oppressive step backwards for our society and one that will deny women the right to make decisions about their own health care and future,” said Sen. Sydney Batch (D-Wake) during the debate.
The measure contains other restrictions that Cooper had successfully vetoed in previous years. One would ban women from getting abortions on the basis of race or a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Another would require doctors and nurses to protect and care for children born alive during a failed abortion later in pregnancy.
Still, North Carolina Republicans stung by some 2022 electoral defeats in suburban legislative and congressional districts where abortion was an issue ultimately declined to push more stringent prohibitions as other states have done.
Meanwhile, at least 19 Democratic-dominated states have taken steps — through a law, constitutional amendment or executive order — to protect access to abortion.
Last year, Cooper signed an executive order shielding out-of-state abortion patients from extradition and prohibiting state agencies under his control from assisting other states’ prosecutions of those who travel for the procedure.
Gary D. Robertson and Hannah Schoenbaum of the Associated Press contributed to this story.