© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Your source for information and inspiration in Western North Carolina.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Proposal to ban abortions after 12 weeks will move forward after NC GOP lawmakers announce agreement

House Speaker Tim Moore joined House and Senate Republicans to announce new abortion restrictions Tuesday.
Colin Campbell
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore joined House and Senate Republicans to announce new abortion restrictions on Tuesday, May 2, 2023.

After months of closed-door discussions among Republican lawmakers, N.C. House and Senate leaders announced Tuesday night that they’ve agreed to ban abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Current state law bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with few exceptions after that point. The new proposed restrictions include exceptions after 12 weeks for rape, incest, fetal anomalies, and threats to the life of the mother (although some of those exceptions would also have time limits). It's a somewhat less restrictive approach that some other GOP-led states have taken on the issue.

Legislators are planning to insert the restrictions into a bill that tweaks the state’s “safe surrender” law that governs how parents can give up babies for adoption. Senate Bill 20 will be released later Tuesday night as a conference report, meaning it will be fast-tracked with no opportunities for legislators to file amendments. Supporters say the measure was thoroughly vetted in a "working group" of GOP lawmakers.

Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, said the group settled on 12 weeks after seeing polling data. "We looked at what most North Carolinians have said; this is where most of them come down, where 57% thought 12 weeks was where it should be," she said.

Votes are expected on Thursday, and bill sponsors said they expect to have "yes" votes from all Republicans and perhaps a few House Democrats — which would be enough to override a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper.

The new restrictions are paired with a variety of family-related provisions, including adoption tax credits, funding for childcare grants, and paid parental leave for teachers and state employees.

"We have dealt with not only the issue of abortion, but also health care when it comes to mothers, health care of children, and really trying to provide a comprehensive approach in a way that is compassionate," House Speaker Tim Moore said.

The bill also includes millions of dollars in funding for things like contraception programs and "crisis pregnancy centers," which counsel pregnant women to consider alternatives to abortion.

Krawiec said the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade created an "opportunity to modernize our pro-life laws," adding that it's "unacceptable" to allow second-trimester abortions.

Abortion rights groups were quick to blast the new proposal; a group called the Triangle Abortion Access Coalition already announced plans to hold a march and rally on Wednesday.

Ahead of the state GOP's legislative announcement, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in North Carolina shared its opposition on Twitter. The organization said the ban would violate "fundamental human rights" and interfere in "private health care decisions."

The legislature's top Democrats, Sen. Dan Blue and Rep. Robert Reives, issued a joint statement opposing the bill.

"Republican leadership has once again schemed behind closed doors and silenced the voices of both members of the public and members of the state legislature in order to force a harmful abortion ban down our throats," they said. "North Carolinians believe in freedom, including the freedom to decide if and when to start a family."

Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, defended the decision not to go through the typical legislative committee process that allows for amendments and public comment. "We worked at it long and hard for five-and-a-half months ... and we didn't feel like it needed to be dragged out that much further," she said.

The GOP now has a supermajority in both the House and Senate, after Rep. Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County switched her party affiliation to Republican. Cotham has previously spoken in favor of abortion rights as a Democrat, so how she votes on this bill will be closely watched. She was not among the Republican women attending Tuesday's press conference.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.