NC legislators reach compromise on abortion, bill would ban it after 12-weeks

Image courtesy of David Cobb, Office of House Rules Chairman Destin Hall.

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  • 57% of North Carolinians support legislation to prohibit abortions after the first trimester, with exceptions.

On Tuesday evening, legislators announced that veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate chambers had reached a compromise to ban elective abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. A group of 10 female legislators—all of whom are Republicans—introduced the bill to the public.

During the press conference, one reporter pointed out that banning abortion after 12 weeks is one of the more moderate stances compared to what other Republican states have done in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Many other states have completely banned abortion or outlawed the practice after a heartbeat can be detected. North Carolina, however, will not be among those states for now.

The bill is called the “Care for Women, Children, and Families Act,” and it will likely be placed into Senate Bill 20 using a procedural move where both House and Senate Rules committees will meet to discuss the bill. The bill would then move to the floor to be discussed and voted on again. This is not a common procedure, but the move quickly sends the bill to Governor Cooper, who will likely veto it.

“This proposal erodes even further the freedom of women and their doctors to make deeply personal health care decisions,” Cooper tweeted after the press conference. “I, along with most North Carolinians are alarmed by the overreach of Republican politicians into people’s personal lives, and I strongly oppose it.”

However, in a recent poll, 57% of North Carolinians support legislation to prohibit abortions after the first trimester, with exceptions for rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger.

According to Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, every Republican in the House and Senate has agreed on this bill, meaning there is enough support to override Cooper’s veto.

Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, speaks to the press introducing new abortion legislation agreed upon by veto-proof legislative majorities.

Stevens also mentioned there may be some Democrats willing to vote for the bill. Still reeling from Rep. Tricia Cotham’s decision to switch to Republican affiliation last month, Democrats have struggled to keep its members on the same policy page on issues like abortion that divide the Democrat caucus along moderate versus liberal progressive lines.

A member of the House informed Carolina Journal on the condition of anonymity that as many as four House Democrats are expected to back the bill.

Two Democrats, both of whom are pastors, who are most likely to vote in favor of restricting abortion, are Reps. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, and Amos Quick, D-Guilford.

Three more Democrats who have shown they are willing to work with Republicans on other issues, and could potentially agree with them on this bill, are Reps. Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe, Michael Wray, D-Northampton, and Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford.

According to a press release from Senate Republicans, the bill will make the following changes to North Carolina’s abortion laws:

  • Limit elective abortions in the second and third trimesters
  • Establish an exception for rape and incest through 20 weeks
  • Establish an exception for fetal life-limiting anomalies through 24 weeks

The bill maintains an exception to save the life of the mother through the duration of her pregnancy.

“The ‘Care for Women, Children, and Families Act’ is reasonable, commonsense legislation that will protect more lives than at any point in the last 50 years,” said Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth. “We are beginning the process of creating a culture that values life, and that’s something we can all be incredibly proud of.”

The bill introduces new healthcare standards for clinics that perform surgical abortions. They must meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and abortions after the first trimester must be done in hospitals.

Doctors must provide care to babies that survive a botched procedure, and abortions based on the baby’s sex, race, or Down syndrome are prohibited.

Gov. Cooper vetoed two previous bills that would have done this—one that banned letting the baby die if he or she is born alive in spite of an abortion, and another that would have prohibited elective abortions based upon the baby’s race or whether he or she has Down syndrome.

An informed consent process must be completed in person, 72 hours prior to any surgical or medical abortion. The law regarding in-person administration of abortion-inducing drugs remains unchanged.

The bill includes the following financial provisions:

  • $75 million to expand access to childcare
  • Over $16 million (including federal matching funds) to reduce infant and maternal mortality
  • $20 million to pay for maternity and paternity leave for teachers and state employees
  • Nearly $59 million (not including federal matching funds) for foster care, kinship care, and children’s homes
  • $7 million to increase access to long-lasting, reversible birth control for underserved, uninsured, or medically indigent patients
  • $3 million to help mothers and fathers complete community college

“Women have been at the center of this debate for so long, and we finally have the opportunity to give women the options they deserve,” said Sen. Lisa Barnes, R-Nash. “The ‘Care for Women, Children, and Families Act’ provides women with care, support, and protections, and welcomes them to motherhood with open arms.”

Physicians will be charged with a Class D felony and a $250,000 fine if they refuse to care for babies born alive following a botched attempt at aborting them.

There is also a $5,000 fine per instance for mailing, supplying, or providing abortion-inducing drugs. There will also be a $5,000 fine per violation for illegally advertising abortion-inducing drugs.

Assaults on pregnant women will result in harsher criminal penalties, a new misdemeanor offense for domestic violence will be established, and the duration of GPS monitoring for certain violent and repeat sexual offenders will increase from 10 years to their entire lifetime.

The bill will be discussed in the Joint Rules Committee meeting Wednesday, May 3, at 9:00 AM.