North Carolina has become the latest state to pass legislation restricting abortion access. The state’s Republican-controlled house and senate voted along party lines to override Democratic governor Roy Cooper’s veto of SB 20. 

The bill will replace the current law that allows abortions up to 20 weeks of pregnancy and will narrow this window to 12 weeks, with exceptions for rape and incest. It will also extend the waiting period for people seeking abortions to 72 hours and require an in-person consultation, as well as require abortion clinics to obtain special licensing and to maintain facilities on par with those of ambulatory surgery centers, which will result in clinic closures throughout the state. 

Notably, in April, State Representative Tricia Cotham switched parties to give Republicans a veto-proof majority in the state House. She ran in 2022 as a Democrat and a passionate supporter of abortion rights, with Planned Parenthood endorsing her campaign. Cotham stated during her race that she would “oppose any legislation that restricts abortion access, including requiring waiting periods or other roadblocks.” The state Democrats needed just a single Republican vote to sustain Governor Cooper’s veto and, ultimately, Representative Cotham’s deceit resulted in millions of women in North Carolina losing reproductive autonomy. 

North Carolina has been a safe haven for abortion access in the South, with a third of abortion patients coming from across state lines for reproductive healthcare. This statistic rose by 37% in the last year as other southern states passed further abortion restrictions — the highest increase in abortions of any state in the country. In Tennessee, abortion is completely banned and in Florida and Georgia, abortion is limited to 6 weeks of pregnancy. Lawmakers in South Carolina are also currently debating a bill that would ban abortion after 6 weeks. This North Carolina bill will have devastating impacts for women in the South as their options become more and more limited.  

In response to the override of his veto, Governor Cooper stated that “strong majorities of North Carolinians don’t want right-wing politicians in the exam room with women and their doctors, which is even more understandable today after several Republican lawmakers broke their promises to protect women’s reproductive freedom.” The GOP will be held accountable for their actions in the next election. 

With abortion access changing so rapidly state by state, the Guttmacher Institute offers valuable resources to stay up to date. This map shows abortion laws in effect as of May 16, 2023.

Sources: The Guardian 5/17/2023; Guttmacher Institute 5/17/2023; Axios 11/3/2022

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