North Carolina legislative leaders say they anticipate a quick vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 20, a measure that would have restricted abortions in North Carolina past the first trimester (12 weeks), with exceptions for rape and incest at 20 weeks, and life-limiting abnormalities of the fetus at 24 weeks, and no restrictions to save the life of the mother.

It adds more “informed consent” requirements, plus requires pre and post-in-person doctor visits for prescribing abortion-inducing drugs, and prohibits mailing such drugs out of state. The bill also spends about $160 million on social services and expands policies like family leave for state employees, adoption tax credits, and changes to foster care.

Bill sponsors call it a compromise bill, as N.C. would remain one of the most permissive states for abortion access in the southeast, even if SB20 goes into effect.

On Saturday, Cooper vetoed S.B. 20, the Care for Women, Children, and Families Act, before an audience of abortion-access activists gathered to support Cooper’s veto in a rally on Bicentennial Mall between the State Capitol Building and the Legislative Building.

“Gov. Cooper has spent the last week actively feeding the public lies about Senate Bill 20 and bullying members of the General Assembly,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, in a statement over the weekend. “He’s 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.”

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes SB20 on May 13, 2023.

The pressure campaign

Since lawmakers passed SB 20 on May 4, Cooper spent his time on a tour focused on meeting with constituents in the districts of four Republican lawmakers, trying to pressure them to support his veto. The four members, Reps. John Bradford and Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County, and Rep. Ted Davis and Sen. Michael Lee of New Hanover County say that the governor never reached out to them directly to discuss the bill, share his position, or ask for theirs.

During Saturday’s rally he told the crowd, some holding signs that said “Cotham you are a Traitor,” and “forced birth is violence,” to contact the four Republican lawmakers. He also issued a press release to media over the weekend that highlighted prior quotes from the four Republican members about their positions on abortion access.

“This bill will create dangerous interference with the doctor-patient relationship, leading to harm for pregnant women and their families,” Cooper said in a statement after the rally over Mother’s Day weekend. “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.”

efforts to support override

A rally in support of S.B. 20 was also held Saturday in front of the Legislative Building, organized by the N.C. Values Coalition with support from the national group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. North Carolina’s largest Protestant group, the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote a letter over the weekend to all lawmakers urging them to override the veto. The group also contacted church leaders from across the state to reach out to their representatives to advocate for overriding the veto.

SBA joined with N.C. Values Coalition to launch a paid digital ad campaign over the weekend to support the four Republican lawmakers in the districts Cooper targeted. A poll of N.C. voters found that 57% support restricting abortion after the first trimester with exceptions for rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is in danger.

“Gov. Cooper’s attempts to bully lawmakers are out of step with the will of 62% of North Carolinians who want to protect babies by 12 weeks and save thousands of lives every year,” said Caitlin Connors, southern regional director for SBA Pro-Life America, wrote in a statement. “The abortion-on-demand agenda held by the governor and Attorney General Josh Stein is wildly unpopular in their state and with Americans at large with two-thirds of the country against painful late-term abortion.”

The N.C. Senate is expected to take the first vote to override as early as Tuesday. It passed the chamber by a veto-proof majority. The House would take the second vote, where it also passed by a veto-proof majority.