Cooper vetoes abortion bill, legislators vow override 

Gov. Roy Cooper stamps "veto" during a rally at Bicentennial Plaza in Raleigh, NC on May 13, 2023. . PJ WARD-BROWN/NORTH STATE JOURNAL

RALEIGH — At a “veto rally” held in Raleigh on the day before Mother’s Day, North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill that reduces the state’s elective abortion limit from 20 weeks down to 12. 

The bill is Senate Bill 20, the Care for Women, Children, and Families Act. In addition to reducing the elective abortion timeframe, the bill maintains exceptions for the life of the mother, fetal anomalies, incest and rape. 

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Included in the bill are multiple items to support women and families totaling more than $180 million: $75 million to expand access to child care, almost $59 million for foster care, more than $16 million that includes federal matching funds to reduce infant and maternal mortality, and $20 million to pay for maternity and paternity leave for teachers and state employees.  

Crowd estimates for Cooper’s rally varied from 300 to up to 1,000 as reported by Raleigh outlet ABC 11. Signs printed with the slogans “my body, my choice,” and “abortion is health care” were seen among the crowd. 

Pro-life supporters from the NC Values Coalition and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America groups held a counterrally across the street from the Bicentennial Mall where the rally was being held.  

Before Cooper took the stage, various speakers talked before the governor, including leaders of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and the Black Abortion Defense League, as well as Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat running for governor in 2024.  

Upon taking the stage, Cooper renewed his calls to pressure four legislators to uphold his veto. 

“If just one Republican in either the House or the Senate keeps a campaign promise to protect women’s reproductive health, we can stop this ban,” Cooper said. “There are four legislators who made these promises, but I think there may be more who know in their hearts and minds that this is bad.” 

The four legislators Cooper has singled out were Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Reps. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) and Tricia Cotham (R-Mecklenburg). 

Both Lee and Bradford have publicly pushed back on Cooper’s claims that they promised to protect abortions in the state, with Lee going as far as to call the governor a liar. 

Cooper gave the bill a veto stamp and signed it during the rally. He also read the veto message out loud. 

“This bill will create dangerous interference with the doctor-patient relationship, leading to harm for pregnant women and their families,” Cooper said. “With its medically unnecessary obstacles and restrictions, it will make abortion unavailable to many women, particularly those with lower incomes, those who live in rural areas, and those who already have limited access to health care.” 

In a press release following the rally, Cooper said the bill is opposed by the North Carolina Medical Society, the North Carolina Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians.  

Reactions from top lawmakers and pro-life advocates were swift and promised an equally fast veto override. 

“Governor Cooper has spent the last week actively feeding the public lies about Senate Bill 20 and bullying members of the General Assembly,” Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) said in a statement “He has been doing everything he can, including wasting taxpayer money on poorly attended events, to avoid talking about his own extreme views on abortion. I look forward to promptly overriding his veto.” 

“Governor Cooper has spent the past week, including Mother’s Day weekend, spreading misinformation about SB 20 in an effort to frighten voters and appease campaign donors,” House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) said in a statement. “The truth is, the Care for Women, Children, and Families Act will save unborn lives, protect women, and support families. His veto will be swiftly overridden.” 

Moore and Berger indicated the override votes in their respective chambers would take place Tuesday, May 16, after North State Journal’s weekly print deadline. 

Based on the bill’s initial passage votes, both chambers have the necessary numbers to override the governor’s veto. 

The bill passed the House on May 3 down party lines by a vote of 71-46. Cotham, who changed parties last month, voted to pass the bill. The bill passed the Senate the following day by a party-line vote of 29 to 20. Senate Democrats each took turns speaking to the bill, dragging out the final vote by around six hours. 

“Gov. Cooper chose Mother’s Day weekend to veto legislation and rally against everything that encompasses motherhood — birth, growing biological and adoptive families, and care for babies,” said NC Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald. “His actions would crush provisions to give women more opportunities to choose life, improve safety standards of clinics and stop the barbaric painful practice of partial-birth abortion.” 

Fitzgerald also said, “Cooper’s bullish tactics of traveling to districts to pressure Republicans in sustaining his veto are a fool’s errand.” 

Four female Republican senators also countered Cooper’s claims ahead of Saturday’s rally. 

Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), Lisa Barnes (R-Nash), Amy Galey (R-Alamance) and Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) stated that his repeated claim that abortions conducted using medication will be “banned after 10 weeks.” 

“Bill language clearly states that surgical and medical abortions are legal through the first 12 weeks. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved the drugs used for medical abortions if the gestational age is no more than 10 weeks,” the lawmaker’s release says. 

The four Republicans also rebutted a claim about the bill requiring three in-person appointments days.  

“Two in-person appointments are required for those seeking a medical abortion — one to get informed consent and one to administer the first dose of an abortion-inducing drug,” according to the statement. “The woman can take the second dose of a two-dose abortion-inducing drug regimen at home. A qualified physician is required to schedule an in-person follow-up visit, but the patient is not required to show up. The FDA recommends a follow-up appointment,” but that a woman “would not be penalized if she does not show up to the follow-up appointment.” 

About A.P. Dillon 1342 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_