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N.C. Gov. Cooper vetoed a 12-week abortion ban, setting up an override fight

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

New abortion restrictions may soon become law in North Carolina.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

A bill banning most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy was vetoed by Governor Roy Cooper over the weekend. But Republican legislative leaders have vowed to override the Democratic governor's veto.

FADEL: Joining us to talk about where things stand is Colin Campbell, Capitol bureau chief for member station WUNC.

Good morning, Colin.

COLIN CAMPBELL, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So the governor brought his veto stamp to a big weekend rally with abortion rights groups. What was the scene like there?

CAMPBELL: So normally Governor Cooper vetoes bills more privately in his office and then he sends us out a press release to announce his decision. This time, he did the paperwork on stage in front of a cheering crowd at the state Capitol. Cooper argues that the restrictions go beyond banning most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROY COOPER: They say this is a reasonable 12-week ban. It's not. The fine-print requirements and restrictions will shut down clinics and make abortion completely unavailable to many women at any time.

CAMPBELL: So the decision to have a rally as a clear sign that Democrats are looking to make these new abortion restrictions a big focus for next year's election here.

FADEL: OK. So he clearly is coming out with a big message there. What's in this bill?

CAMPBELL: So the bill includes some exceptions after 12 weeks in situations involving rape, fetal abnormalities and where the life of the mother is in danger. Women seeking an abortion in the first trimester would have to jump through some additional hoops to have the procedure, and it increases licensing requirements and regulatory fees for abortion providers. Democrats say that abortion clinics could shut down, or providers might choose to move to other states with less restrictive laws. It also requires more in-person doctor visits, even for medication abortions. And this could be a challenge for people in rural areas of the state who may need to take time off work or find childcare or transportation to the doctor.

FADEL: Now, this bill doesn't actually go as far as abortion restrictions in other states. Why did the GOP go with this 12-week limit in North Carolina?

CAMPBELL: I think Republican legislative leaders here saw some of the backlash we've seen in other states and decided they wanted to take a different approach. Here's GOP Senator Vickie Sawyer pushing back against criticism of the bill during a committee hearing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICKIE SAWYER: I am confident that this is the best piece of compromise, mainstream legislation that we could put forward. I reject the fact - what I'm hearing today - that this is anti-woman and anti-democratic.

CAMPBELL: Republican legislators here have a range of opinions about abortion. The ones from the more socially conservative districts pushed for a full ban, while more moderate suburban Republicans were worried about how that might affect them in next year's election. Ultimately, 12 weeks seemed to be what the Republicans thought would be the middle ground among their caucus. Of course, it's not at all a compromise with the Democrats. Also, in order to get more moderate Republicans to back the bill, they added in some other pretty widely popular family-related provisions, like paid parental leave for teachers and state government workers.

FADEL: Now, despite the veto, this could become law in North Carolina. How soon could that happen?

CAMPBELL: So the legislature will take a veto override vote as early as tomorrow. Republicans in the state have a veto-proof supermajority in both the House and the Senate. If the bill becomes law, most of the new restrictions will be taking effect on July 1, but the battle won't end there. Democrats will be using this new law to rally support to flip seats in the legislature and keep the governor's mansion in Democratic hands in 2024.

FADEL: Colin Campbell covers politics in North Carolina for member station WUNC.

Thank you so much for your time.

CAMPBELL: Thanks, Leila.

(SOUNDBITE OF ECHO ISLAND'S "PACE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Colin Campbell
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