RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Four Republicans in the North Carolina House have filed a bill that would ban legal abortion in the state except as necessary to save a mother’s life.

House Bill 533 was filed Wednesday by state Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort), its primary sponsor, Rep. Ben Moss (R-Moore), Rep. Edward Goodwin (R-Chowan) and Rep. Kevin Crutchfield (R-Cabarrus), and it would ban abortion processes except in cases of a spontaneous abortion of the fetus or an ectopic pregnancy.

Crutchfield’s legislative aide on Monday told WGHP that he no longer is a sponsor, and his name has been removed from the bill in the legislative database. The spokesperson said that Crutchfield removed his name the day the bill was announced, “because he does not agree with the language in the bill.”

Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) (NCGA)

There are specific requirements for how those exceptions must be carried out – such as only through a licensed physician – and the bill creates felony charges for any action prohibited in the bill that “results in the death of an unborn child.” It specifies civil penalties and disciplinary action that includes the removal of medical licenses.

Republicans have been discussing tightening the state’s current 20-week abortion limit, which was reinstated by U.S. District Judge William Osteen Jr. in August, after the U.S. Supreme Court in its Boggs decision in June overturned Roe v. Wade and returned lawmaking about abortion to state control. Osteen ended a stay that had been in place since the law was passed in 1973, right after Roe was implemented.

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said last fall that he was looking for a path to something narrower. He said he doesn’t think the 20-week ban is sufficient, although it is narrower than the roughly 24-to-28-week limit that Roe had stipulated. Anti-abortion activists often misstate those limits as being open-ended.

The level to which legislative leadership contributed to this draft is unclear. The bill is so new that it has not been read into the House or assigned to a committee.

Kidwell did not respond immediately to emailed questions about how he arrived at the language in the bill.

But Moss, who is running for the GOP nomination for commissioner of Labor, did release a statement: “If you are reading this, you have been blessed with the gift of life. Every human life has value from the womb to the tomb, and I am thrilled to introduce this legislation that will defend the dignity and sanctity of every person. I will continue to promote a culture of life and ensure that every child, regardless of circumstance, is given the chance to flourish and thrive.”

Said state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett), the House majority whip and the man running abainst Moss, in a text message to WGHP: “We haven’t caucused on it yet.”

Just last week Democrats in the House filed a bill to eliminate various restrictions on abortions.

Polls about abortion preferences in North Carolina uniformly have shown the public’s appetite for some leeway.

A WGHP/The Hill/Emerson College Poll last summer showed that a plurality of voters (39%) think the North Carolina General Assembly should make it easier to access abortion, and 32% think legislators should make it more difficult. Just less than 1 in 3 (29%) said they shouldn’t do anything. A Meredith College Poll earlier this year showed that most wanted to keep the law as it is.

The bill was so new that there was little immediate reaction and lawmakers completed their sessions for the day.

Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) said she “thinks the bill lacks enough support. Too extreme.”

State Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro), the deputy Democratic leader in the House, said she has not reviewed the bill and that she certainly hopes it won’t gain traction.

Any abortion bill that passed through the General Assembly would be vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper. The GOP has the votes automatically to override in the Senate but not necessarily in the House, as occurred Wednesday with the pistol permit veto.

Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who many think will be the GOP frontrunner to succeed Cooper, has said he wants North Carolina to be a “state for life” and supports a total ban on abortions.