RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Abortion law in North Carolina now has officially changed.

Senate Bill 20 became law Tuesday after the House and Senate voted along party lines to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto.

North Carolina state Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Forsyth County Republican, speaks at a news conference on proposed new abortion restrictions Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)
North Carolina state Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth County) introduces Senate Bill 20 on May 2. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

For the record, the House followed the Senate by voting 72-48 to make SB 20 law. Following the vote, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) ordered the gallery cleared of jeering protestors. The Senate’s vote after a spirited debate was 30-20.

Senate Bill 20, the “Care for Women Children and Families Act,” tightens to 12 weeks the window for an elective abortion but retains for longer periods the access to abortions based on exceptions for rape, incest, the health of the mother and fetal abnormalities and adding money for a variety of related initiatives.

This 46-page bill was pushed through the General Assembly within 48 hours of first being revealedAfter about six hours of debate, the NC Senate voted, 29-20, on May 4, less than 24 hours after the House voted, 71-46. Both votes were along party lines, with some absences.

Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Surry), in presenting the bill she called a “mainstream approach,” discussed Cooper’s “misinformation campaign.”

She then went through the point-by-point refutation of Cooper’s comments, much in the way Sen. Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) when the bill was introduced in the Senate.

She also mentions Cooper’s comments about politically gerrymandered districts, which she said the House voted uniformly for and were approved by the state Supreme Court. But no other Republicans spoke to the bill while a long lineup of Democrats spoke about their support for the veto until Moore called on rep. Kristin Baker (R-Cabarrus), who is a medical doctor.

“As I stand before you tonight, I stand as a woman, I stand as a mother, and I stand as a physician,” Baker said, at times heckled by spectators. “It is a duty to protect each and every life. That is exactly what Senate Bill 20 does. That is exactly why the only two physicians in the entire North Carolina General Assembly are supporting Senate Bill.”

North Carolina state Rep. Renee Price (D-Caswell) delivered comments in a letter from U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D-Charlotte). (WGHP)

Before her closing remarks touted the bill’s assets, Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham) talked about threats of the bill after the “chaos” caused by the Supreme Court in its Boggs decision.

Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) said the bill would make the state “less hospitable” and that the “extreme political agenda” is not a selling point. She mentioned the “bathroom bill.”

Rep. Amber Baker (D-Forsyth) said, “Those of us who stand up with the veto are standing on the right side. (WGHP)

Rep. Renee Price (D-Caswell) read a letter that was distributed by U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D-Charlotte) that discussed the effects of the bill. She also told the story of a woman whose accidental pregnancy was affected by genetic issues with her partner and the difficulty of choosing the abortion.

Said Rep. Amber Baker (D-Forsyth): “We cannot afford to take a partisan stance because of fear.”

Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) spoke about the bill. (WGHP)

Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) talked about issues in other states that had enacted more restricted laws because women couldn’t get the health care they needed. She cited the stories of patients who needed care.”

Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro) said she had sat down and cried on Tuesday morning because she “feels helpless as a mother.” She described the process the law would require surprisingly pregnant teenager to face.

The Senate’s debate

The Senate’s debate started with speakers disputing the Democratic argument that the restricting of limits is a “ban on abortion,” and it was argued that SB 20 expands opportunities in some aspects, such as fetal abnormality of up to 24 weeks, and rebutting Cooper’s attacks on the bill.

“I encourage you to override this dishonest governor’s veto,” Sen. Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) said in introducing the override vote.

Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) offered a top-10 list of good things about the bill. “An unborn baby is not a sack of cells in a uterus,” she said d that sometimes “the government must intervene to protect that child.”

When Democratic questions began, some senators would not yield for questions.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper ignites a crowd of about 1,000 abortion-rights supporters on Saturday. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

Before vetoing the bill during a rally on Saturday, Cooper had spent last week traveling around the state to generate pressure on four members of the House and Senate all of whom he said had expressed support for the state’s 20-week window that has been in place since the U.S. Supreme Court ended Roe v. Wade in its Dobbs decision.

One of them, Sen. Mike Lee (R-New Hanover) took questions that were not accepted by the other sponsors. He mentioned an op-ed piece he wrote after the Dobbs decision.

“Right now, even though this bill does what I put in my op-ed, the governor and people in this chamber say I’m doing something other than what I said in my election cycle,” he said. “I didn’t promise anything to the people in this room.”

Sen. Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg) spoke passionately against the bill, saying this was “not a mainstream bill” and that it was being rushed through much faster than usual. They called the bill “unthinkable and cruel” for women.

State Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Greensboro)

Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Greensboro) talked about what women face, and she said that lawmakers are “betraying your constituents by putting citizens in danger.”

“This is a circus, and you keep riding the elephant as it circles the tent. Most residents want to leave abortion care alone.”

She addressed gaps in the Senate’s budget bill that further affected childcare and maternal care. She noted bills that have been ignored.

“Do men have complete control over your sperm and your body? We want equal treatment,” she said.

Her comment was the last before the Senate voted.

What’s in the Senate Bill 20

  • Provides access to an elective abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, in cases of rape and incest up to 20 weeks, with no requirement for a report to law enforcement.
  • Sets abortion for a fetal, life-limiting anomaly up to 24 weeks.
  • Continues current state law that there is no exception to abortion in the case of a threat to the life of the mother.
  • Requires any abortion after the second trimester to be done in a hospital and establishes new standards for health care facilities to support abortion.
  • Guards against the Illegal distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and continues the current law that abortion-inducing drugs must be taken in the presence of a physician.
  • Maintains a 72-hour, in-person consent process.
  • Sets aside millions of dollars for childcare, mental health assistance and paid maternal/paternal leave for state employees.

Changes in the law

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 14 states, and Georgia has a 6-week ban. A similar 6-week limit is under review by the Florida Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court on April 21 extended access to the drug mifepristone, which is used in a cocktail with misoprostol as the most common form of abortion, but that case will get another hearing in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Louisiana.