RALEIGH, NC — Both chambers of the North Carolina state legislature successfully overturned Governor Roy Cooper's veto on a bill restricting abortion on Tuesday, allowing the bill to become law.
The House held a debate Tuesday night, hours after the Senate successfully overturned the governor's veto. The vote was 72-48 as GOP members withstood tough and vocal opposition from critics desperate to enforce Cooper's veto.
The Democratic governor immediately issued a statement in reaction to Republican-led efforts to produce new abortion parameters for the state.
“A strong majority of North Carolina citizens don't want right-wing politicians in exam rooms with women and their doctors, which is even more understandable today after several Republican lawmakers broke their promise to protect women's reproductive freedoms,” Cooper said. “Over the past two weeks, Republican sponsors of this abortion ban have vehemently argued that it is far less restrictive than we warned it would be, so we will now do everything in our power to make sure it is true.”
The governor added that abortion rights advocates were “eager to fight back.”
“I will continue to do everything I can to protect abortion access in North Carolina because women's lives depend on it,” Cooper said.
US Representative Wiley Nickel, D-NC-13. echoing Cooper's vow, saying he will “continue to fight for reproductive freedom and work to draft the Roe vs. Wade protection into law.”
House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland said by overriding the veto and passing the “Concern for Women, Children, and Family Act,” the House “has affirmed the value of human life.”
“I am proud the House has overruled the Governor's veto over this meaningful mainstream legislation,” Moore said. “Senate Bill 20 will save lives and provide needed support to women and families while putting North Carolina's abortion laws in line with much of the rest of the free world.”
Tuesday morning, the North Carolina Senate ruled out veto Senate Bill 20, which added further restrictions for women seeking abortion treatment in North Carolina.
The final count for the veto being lifted was 30-20 with all Senate Republicans in favor and Democrats voting against the veto.
The DPR also votes along party lines. That means new restrictions on women having abortions and medical professionals performing those abortions will become law in the state.
Democrats lined up to immediately condemn the development.
“Today, the Republican Party of North Carolina made the decision to politically disrupt women's right to bodily autonomy and erode our reproductive rights that generations of women before us fought for,” said Congresswoman Valerie Foushee, who represents Durham as part of NC District 4.” This extreme bill will not only turn back years of time, it will disproportionately impact women of color and leave thousands of people across our state vulnerable.”
Congresswoman Deborah Ross, District 2, accuses Republicans of betraying the people of North Carolina.
“In the two weeks since Republican leaders announced a backroom deal to pass a radical abortion ban, North Carolina citizens have organized, protested, and demonstrated,” Ross said. “They made one thing very clear – the people of our country do not support these dangerous efforts to limit our health rights and care.”
Supporters of the legislation heralded the passage as a new era that had been a long time coming and praised Republican leaders for making the bill into law.
“Today marks the beginning of North Carolina's first real step towards becoming a pro-life state,” said NC Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald. “Pro-life North Carolinans have waited more than 50 years to roll back the gestational age to sanction the killing of pre-born children. With this veto overturned, legislators have rejected Governor Cooper's extreme and senseless abortion position without boundaries until birth.”
Fitzgerald noted that the new law provides for $160 million in funding to assist pregnant women including $75 million for childcare, $59 million for foster care, kinship care and children's homes among other provisions.
“We sincerely thank Senator Berger, Speaker Moore, and Republican legislators for standing firm and voting on behalf of the 62% of North Carolina residents who refuse abortion after 12 weeks,” he added.
Prior to the vote, state Senators spent time asking each other what the bill would do and how they would vote. But in the end, it proved to be just political theater – as every member of the Senate aligned with their party.
Four female Republican state Senators — Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, Lisa Barnes (R-Nash), Amy Galey (R-Alamance), and Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) — released the following statements after the vote overruled the veto:
“This is a monumental moment for women, children and families in North Carolina. Our bill stops all the noise and lies that we have heard last week, and brings to life a culture that values motherhood and saves the lives of the unborn.”
Senate bill 20 outlawed most abortions afterward 12 weeks of pregnancy and added stricter regulations and processes for all abortions in the state.
“Today would be considered an embarrassing loss of freedom for our state. But make no mistake – this is just the beginning,” said NC Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat running for governor.
Cooper vetoed the bill over the weekend in an unusual public ceremony after spending the last week traveling across the state trying to convince one or more Republicans to enforce his expected veto.
WATCH: Cooper vetoed the GOP abortion bill
He voted for four GOP lawmakers — one in the Senate and three in the House — who he said made “campaign promises” to protect abortion access. Among others are Representative Tricia Cothamwho recently switched from Democrats to the GOP gave Republicans the one additional vote they need for a veto majority in both chambers.
“It's shameful to see Republicans John Bradford, Tricia Cotham, Ted Davis, and Michael Lee flip over and betray their constituents to toe the party line,” North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton said late Tuesday.
Cotham issued a lengthy statement regarding his decision to stick with his new party and chose to change. He called the SB20 a “sensible balance” on the abortion issue, representing a middle ground.
“I understand that there are extremists on both sides of the abortion issue,” Cotham said. “Some absolutists believe abortion is unacceptable under any circumstances and some absolutists believe it is morally acceptable to abort a perfectly healthy child at the 40th week of pregnancy. I cannot support either of these extreme positions.
“I — like most North Carolinars — think abortion is a complicated issue with no absolute answers,” Cotham added. “Abortion is an unpleasant subject for many women, and I know of no woman who has considered having an abortion who has done it recklessly or not seriously. Despite what some on the fringes may claim, contemplating abortion is a tough decision, not one for me. never know anyone to celebrate.”
Below: Read Cotham's full statement
Both the House and Senate passed the bill along party lines this month, signaling that the replacement has a chance of succeeding.
Republicans say the move is a median change to state abortion laws developed after months of private negotiations between members of their House and Senate. It added an exception to the 12-week ban, extending the limit to 20 weeks for cases of rape and incest and up to 24 weeks for “life-limiting” fetal anomalies.
Cooper has repeatedly said the details contained in the 47-page bill show that the measure is not a reasonable compromise and would instead severely erode reproductive rights for North Carolina residents and others who have relied on the state for late-pregnancy abortions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.