North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes 12-week abortion ban : NPR

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North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper affixes his veto stamp to a bill that would ban nearly all abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy at a public rally on Saturday in Raleigh, NC

Hannah Schoenbaum/AP

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Hannah Schoenbaum/AP

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper affixes his veto stamp to a bill that would ban nearly all abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy at a public rally on Saturday in Raleigh, NC

Hannah Schoenbaum/AP

RALEIGH, NC — In front of an exuberant crowd, North Carolina’s Democratic governor vetoed legislation Saturday that would have banned nearly all abortions in his state after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Abortion rights activists and voters watched on a town square in Raleigh as Gov. Roy Cooper affixed his veto stamp to the bill in an unconventional public display. The veto launches a key test for leaders of the GOP-controlled General Assembly to try to pass the vote after recently securing veto-proof majorities in both chambers. The bill was the Republicans’ response to the US Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v.

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

Andrea Long, a 42-year-old mother of three from Cary, said she was honored to be part of the “electric” crowd on what she called a “historic day for freedom” in North Carolina.

“I couldn’t stop crying tears of joy when I saw the governor holding the veto stamp, but I know it’s an uphill battle to keep this momentum going,” Long said. In a statement provided late Saturday through Cooper’s office, State Capitol Police Deputy Chief Terry Green said the crowd estimate was more than 2,000 people.

Cooper, a strong supporter of abortion rights, had until Sunday evening to act on the measure that would tighten the current state law, which bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The legislation passed along party lines last week in the House and Senate. Override voting could begin next week.

Cooper spent this week on the road talking about the lesser-known details of the bill and urging residents to apply pressure on key Republican lawmakers who were hesitant about more restrictions during their campaigns for office last year. has passed.

Republicans introduced the measure as a midterm change to state abortion laws developed after months of private negotiations between House and Senate GOP members. It adds exceptions to the 12-week ban, extending the limit through 20 weeks for rape and incest and through 24 weeks for “life-limiting” fetal anomalies.

Senate Leader Phil Berger accused Cooper on Saturday of “peddling public lies” and “bullying” members of his own party to block the legislation. “I look forward to promptly overriding his veto,” he said in a statement.

Cooper has repeatedly said that the details contained in the 47-page bill show that the measure is not a reasonable compromise and instead would greatly erode reproductive rights. He cites new barriers for women to obtain abortions – such as the need for multiple in-person visits, additional paperwork to prove a patient has given informed consent to an abortion and increased regulation of clinics providing the procedure.

Cooper and allies said those practice changes would close clinics that can’t afford major upgrades mandated by new licensing standards and make it nearly impossible for women who live in rural areas or work long hours to access the abortion services.

Compared to recent actions by Republican-controlled legislatures elsewhere, the broad ban after 12 weeks can be seen as less onerous for those in other states where the procedure has been banned almost entirely. But abortion rights activists have argued that it is more restrictive than it appears and will have far-reaching consequences. Since Roe was overturned, many patients traveling from more restrictive states have become dependent on North Carolina as a location for abortions later in pregnancy.

Republicans call the legislation pro-family and pro-child, pointing to at least $160 million in spending that is within maternal health services, foster care and adoption, contraceptive access and paid leave for teachers and state employees after the birth of a child.

Cooper named four GOP lawmakers – three House members and one senator – who he said told voters last year that they would protect access to abortion. Abortion rights activists passed out flyers in the crowd Saturday with their names and office phone numbers. Anti-abortion groups criticized Cooper’s cross-state campaign to influence one or more Republicans.

“The way he’s been showing up in their districts and harassing their constituents, it’s disgusting,” said Wes Bryant, one of about 60 anti-abortion protesters who gathered across the street from Cooper’s rally for an event on ‘ prayer.

One of the members of the House that Cooper pointed out is Rep. Tricia Cotham, of Mecklenburg County, who voted for the bill just weeks after switching from the Democratic Party to the GOP. The move gave Republicans a super-veto-proof majority if all their lawmakers were present and voted.

Cotham has spoken out for abortion rights in the past and even earlier this year co-sponsored a bill to codify abortion protections into state law. Rep. Ted Davis of Wilmington — another lawmaker targeted — was the only Republican absent from last week’s initial House vote. The Senate margin has already become veto-proof after the GOP’s gains last November.

Davis said last fall that he supported “what the law is in North Carolina right now,” which was a 20-week limit. Davis declined to comment on the bill, but House Speaker Tim Moore said recently that Davis is a “yes” vote for an override.

Like Berger, Moore accused Cooper of spreading misinformation about the bill “to scare voters” and predicted a swift removal in his chamber.

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