RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Saying that this is a bill that supports the rights of both mothers and children, leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly on Tuesday announced an agreement to modify the state’s abortion law.

Their agreement, announced in a press conference, sets a 12-week limit on elective abortion, 20 weeks for rape and incest and 24 weeks for a fetal anomalies-of-life exception. There is no limit when a mother’s life is in jeopardy.

The bill would make no changes in current law for medical abortions or the use of mifepristone, which currently is being reviewed nationally, and it would add maternity and paternity leave for teachers and state employees. There is funding to expand adoption, foster care and childcare programs.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland , left) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson)

The legislation will be filed as Senate Bill 20 – and leaders said at their press conference that the language should be posted later tonight – and will be a conference bill that will have no public hearings or amendments.

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) called it “commonsense” and “reasonable” and said it was about women as much as children.

House Speaker Tim Moore said legislators “do not take this lightly. For the first time in 50 years the North Carolina General Assembly is having to address this controversial issue.

“We have taken a comprehensive approach that includes funding for mental health care.”

The Triad had a significant presence in the estimated five and a half months that the working group has been working on this legislation, a group that originally included Democrats but not so much at the end.

It’s unclear if any Democrats might support the bill when it comes to a vote, which could happen this week, although some of those who spoke Tuesday said they expect support from some Democrats in the General Assembly. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, could be expected to veto the bill, but Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in both chambers of the General Assembly..

State Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Surry)
State Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth)

State Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) and state Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Surry) both presented during the press conference.

Krawiec said the 12-week limit was arrived at because most countries used that limit and because 57% of North Carolinians said they preferred that limit, although she didn’t cite the source of that polling.

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Boggs decision, which said abortion laws were the province of the state, North Carolina had been operating with a 20-week abortion window.

Most abortions are now banned in 13 states, and Georgia has a 6-week ban. Recently Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a similar 6-week limit, but that remains under review by the Florida Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court on April 21 extended access to the drug mifepristone, which used in a cocktail with misoprostol is the most common form of abortion.

“Those of us who have been working to save lives of unborn babies for decades saw a great opportunity,” Krawiec said. “This is pro-life, pro-woman legislation. … It will save lives and provide opportunities and modernizes our pro-life laws.”

The bill is called the “Care for Women, Children and Families Act,” she said, and the goal is to “save lives and improve health outcomes.”

Stevens discussed funding in the bill for contraception, for adoption and foster services, to help students who become pregnant finish college and to fight maternal morbidity, and she said there would be standards for the centers where surgical abortions might be required.

Women must consult with a physician, see an ultrasound and schedule in-office sessions with doctors, and those physicians, not law enforcement would stipulate a pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, she said.

Chemical abortions must be conducted in a doctor’s office, as current law stipulates, and there can bet surgical abortion for life-limiting fetal anomalies after 12 weeks and for the exception of rape, incest. There is no limit for issues involving the mother’s health.

“It’s time to catch up with science that affirms parenthood before birth,” Stevens said. “This proposal focuses on the health and safety of women and children.”

Said Rep. Kristin Baker (R-Cabarrus), who is medical doctor: “The life of the mother is imminently prioritized. … We are protecting the mother and protecting the baby.”

Dems’ reaction to bill

“North Carolinians have the right to make their own health care decisions without politicians like Phil Berger, Mark Robinson, and Tim Moore getting in the way,” NC Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton said in a release. “One year after the nation learned of the unprecedented overturning of Roe v. Wade, North Carolina Republicans are continuing their relentless war on our freedoms by rushing through an extreme abortion ban that is out of step with our North Carolina values.” 

The Democratic Governors Association issued a response to the bill that went after Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a GOP candidate for governor, who has said he favored a total ban on abortion.

“Every Republican running for governor in North Carolina would enthusiastically sign this dangerous and extreme abortion ban, and some, like Mark Robinson, would go even further by outlawing exceptions for victims of rape or incest,” Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Meghan Meehan-Draper said in the release. Women’s most fundamental rights are on the ballot in November 2024 and we must elect a Democratic governor to continue to protect reproductive freedom in North Carolina.

“The DGA looks forward to holding Mark Robinson and the entire North Carolina GOP field accountable for their extreme agenda.”

Allocations in bill

In an email distributed by Republicans following the press conference, details of the bill incued:

  • $75 million to expand access to child care.
  • Over $16 million (including federal matching funds) to reduce infant and maternal mortality
  • $20 million to pay for maternity and paternity leave for teachers and state employees.
  • Nearly $59 million (not including federal matching funds) for foster care, kinship care, and children’s homes.
  • $7 million to increase access to long-lasting, reversible birth control for underserved, uninsured, or medically indigent patients.
  • $3 million to help mothers and fathers complete community college.