North Carolina Republicans voted late Tuesday night to override Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill banning abortion at 12 weeks. They were able to squeak the restrictions through after Representative Tricia Cotham switched her political affiliation to Republican. She had previously expressed support for abortion rights, but pulled an abrupt about-face in early April that two of her former aides described as a “deeply petty, personal” decision.
The new abortion restrictions, which go into immediate effect, technically ban abortion after 12 weeks, but in reality, the window could be much shorter. People would also only be allowed to get a medication abortion until 10 weeks of pregnancy, and to get one, they would have to go to three separate, in-person appointments that are 72 hours apart.
Under the new law, abortions are technically allowed up to 24 weeks if the fetus has a “life-limiting anomaly,” but the anomaly must be “uniformly diagnosable,” even though such defects are rarely so clear-cut. Doctors also have to tell patients that such anomalies do result in live births with “unpredictable and variable lengths of life,” meaning they will have to try to convince patients to carry the pregnancy to term if there’s a chance the baby will live—even if only for a few moments.
The law also mandates that the legislature would have to appoint a rules commission to overhaul abortion clinic regulations by October. New rules could potentially force clinics to undergo costly (and unnecessary) changes, even permanently shutting them down if they are unable to comply. It would also require health care providers to care for infants “born alive”—which health experts agree rarely occurs and could negatively impact post-birth care—and could restrict access to abortion based on a patient’s reason for wanting one.
“Abortion bans are really about control. The ability to control the lives of others. Women did not ask for your oversight. We did not ask for your approval. Women do not need to be protected. Stay out of our exam rooms,” Democratic Representative Julie von Haefen said during the debate.
Representative Diamond Staton-Williams pointed out that “if we genuinely believe in the sanctity of life, we need to recognize our medical professionals as the experts they are. The doctor’s office just isn’t big enough for the entire N.C. House to fit in.”
Chants of “Shame!” broke out after the House voted to override the veto. Cotham made an “I’m watching you” gesture at the protesters as they were escorted out.
After Roe v. Wade was overturned, North Carolina became an abortion haven in the South due to its previous law allowing abortion up to 20 weeks. The new law, combined with Florida’s hugely unpopular six-week ban, will devastate abortion access in the region.
South Carolina, which currently allows abortion until 22 weeks, is still debating a six-week ban. Democrats filed 1,000 amendments to the bill to try and block it. In Nebraska, Republicans got just enough votes to add a 12-week abortion ban to a bill banning gender-affirming care. That measure must still go up for a final vote.