On Tuesday, both chambers of the North Carolina state legislature voted to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 20, “Care for Women, Children, and Families Act,” which restricts elective abortions after 12 weeks of fetal development.

The vote was along party lines, with all Republicans in both chambers voting to override the veto while all Democrats voted to uphold Cooper’s veto.

The House voted 72-48, and the Senate voted 30-20 to override Cooper’s veto.

Legislators in both chambers often miss votes for various reasons but no one was absent on Tuesday.

senate bill 20 changes

Senate Bill 20 makes 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.

Sens. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, Lisa Barnes, R-Nash, Amy Galey, R-Alamance, and Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell, released the following statement on the override: 

“This is a monumental moment for women, children, and families in North Carolina. Our bill puts to rest all of the noise and lies we’ve been hearing this past week, and brings to life a culture that cherishes motherhood and saves the lives of the unborn.”

democrat response

Following the final House vote, one Democratic state senator said North Carolina was entering the “Handmaid’s Tale Era.”

House minority leader Robert Reives, D-Chatham, said Republicans would not stop with 12-week restrictions.

“Tonight, North Carolina Republicans voted to strip women of the right to make decisions about their own bodies,” Reives said. “Make no mistake: They will not stop here.”

Many Democrats spent the last two weeks arguing that Senate Bill 20, which restricts abortions after 12 weeks, was a total ban. Governor Cooper referred to the bill as a ban again after Republicans overrode his veto.

Although the vote was not bipartisan, Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said there was significant outreach to Democrats, and some even wanted to vote for the bill.

“We talked to a number of Democratic members, and at one point, we felt like we had a number of Democrats who were going to vote for this bill and even for an override [vote],” Speaker Moore said. “But they came back to me and said, ‘Look, we’re feeling overly pressured. We can’t do it.’ So I had hoped that it would be a bipartisan bill and wish it would have been, but I understand the pressure some of the members were under.”

Sen. Galey said she emailed a key Democratic senator to ask if the Democrats wanted to discuss the legislation, but they declined.

“a middle ground”

In the House, several key swing Republicans received pressure from leftwing activists, Democrats, and the media to change their minds on Senate Bill 20; however, none did.

Rep. Tricia Cotham, R-Mecklenburg, a longtime Democrat who made headlines earlier this year when she announced she was switching parties, released a long statement explaining her vote.

After saying she cannot support a complete ban or “aborting a perfectly healthy child in the 40th week of pregnancy,” Cotham said she feels that Senate Bill 20 is a middle ground approach.

“I—like most North Carolinians—think abortion is a complicated issue without absolute answers,” Cotham said. “After extensive review, I believe this bill strikes a reasonable balance on the abortion issue and represents a middle ground that anyone not holding one of the two extremist positions can support.”

Cotham also said that she had “insisted that any abortion legislation include meaningful support and protections to mothers and children to give them the best chance at a good life.”

Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, a Republican running for governor, said he was glad to see Republicans “stand strong and override the Governor’s veto.” Robinson also credited Republicans with creating “a culture of life in North Carolina.”

Former Congressman Mark Walker, who is expected to enter the Republican primary for governor this weekend, was among the pro-life advocates who attended the Senate’s override vote.

“It was never a question in my mind that we would have the votes to override the veto,” Speaker Moore said.

Following both override votes, Senate Bill 20 will be enrolled to become law.