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North Carolina’s GOP-led General Assembly overrides Democratic governor’s 12-week abortion ban veto

<i>Jonathan Drake/Reuters</i><br/>North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper vetoes a 12-week abortion ban
Jonathan Drake/Reuters
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper vetoes a 12-week abortion ban

By Shania Shelton and Dianne Gallagher, CNN

(CNN) — North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly moved Tuesday to ban most abortions after 12 weeks, voting to override a veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The state House voted 72-48 along party lines hours after the state Senate voted 30-20 to do the same. A three-fifths vote in both chambers, where Republicans hold supermajorities, was needed to override the governor’s previous rejection of the measure.

Cooper, who had previously pressed on lawmakers to sustain his veto, said in a Twitter post following the votes that “North Carolinians now understand that Republicans are unified in their assault on women’s reproductive freedom and we are energized to fight back on this and other critical issues.”

He had vetoed the abortion ban on Saturday after the General Assembly swiftly advanced the bill to his desk. Republican-led state legislatures across the nation have sought to restrict the procedure in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s reversal last year, while Democratic lawmakers have attempted to stave off similar bans. As North Carolina legislators enacted the ban Tuesday, the South Carolina House of Representative was in the midst of an hourslong debate on a 6-week abortion ban bill after Democratic lawmakers said they filed over 1,000 amendments to it.

The governor had placed pressure on four state Republican lawmakers who had previously vowed to protect abortion rights – state Reps. Ted Davis, John Bradford, Tricia Cotham and Republican state Sen. Michael Lee – by paying visits to their districts and urging them to stand by their comments.

“We are going to have to kick it into an even higher gear when that veto stamp comes down. If just one Republican in either the House or the Senate keeps a campaign promise to protect women’s reproductive health we can stop this ban,” Cooper said at a rally on Saturday.

Republicans in the state gained a veto-proof supermajority last month when then-Democrat Cotham switched parties. Cotham, who had campaigned in favor of abortion rights as a Democrat and sponsored legislation earlier in the legislative session to codify Roe v. Wade, was one of the Republicans who voted for the abortion ban. She was joined by the other Republican lawmakers identified by Cooper in voting to overturn his veto.

Cotham defended her vote in a statement Tuesday, arguing that the bill “strikes a reasonable balance on the abortion issue” and provides hundreds of millions of dollars in funding toward programs that support mothers and children.

“Some may call me a hypocrite since I voted for this bill,” she said, noting that she had an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage. “In fact, Senate Bill 20 affirms the life-saving care I received in that dire situation.”

The bill – Senate Bill 20, dubbed the “Care for Women, Children and Families Act” – bans any licensed physician from performing surgical abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy. It provides exceptions in the case of rape and incest through 20 weeks of pregnancy or in the event of a “life-limiting anomaly” through 24 weeks.

It takes effect July 1.

Under the bill, the procedure could be performed by a physician if a doctor determines an abortion is necessary to avert death – “not including psychological or emotional conditions.”

Under current state law, abortions are legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. A reduction to 12 weeks is significant but less restrictive than some other GOP-led states that have recently enacted six-week or near-total bans on the procedure.

The bill also prohibits health care providers who object to abortion “on moral, ethical, or religious grounds” from being required to participate in medical procedures that would result in an abortion.

It also calls for multiple in-person examination by physicians seeking to prescribe or administer abortion-inducing drugs and will prohibit people within the state from mailing such drugs to a pregnant woman. The bill mandates that doctors confirm that the “probable gestational age” of a fetus is no more than 10 weeks before they can sign off on a medication abortion.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre slammed lawmakers who enacted the legislation Tuesday, calling it “dangerous” and “out of touch with the majority of North Carolinians.”

Ahead of the House vote Tuesday night, Democratic state Rep. Diamond Staton-Williams spoke on the House floor about her own decision to have an abortion.

She described how in 2002, as a young mom in a committed relationship with her husband, she and her family made the decision to schedule the procedure.

“It was not an easy decision, at all, it was not made lightly or frivolously,” she said. “I knew that in order for my family to prosper and to continue with the opportunities in front of us, this was the best decision for us.”

She said the ban would take away that “God given right.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jack Forrest and Shawn Nottingham contributed to this report.

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