RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Even as the U.S. Supreme Court readies a ruling on a lower court’s decision about the most-used abortion drug, there apparently is a working “consensus” in the North Carolina General Assembly to pursue a 12-week limit on abortions – with some stipulations.

That’s what NC House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said late Thursday as the General Assembly was recessing for the weekend.

FILE - North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, left, speaks while Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, listens during a post-election news conference at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, Nov. 9. 2022. Speaker Tim Moore is the choice of North Carolina state House Republicans to lead the chamber for the next two years after an internal vote on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, that should bring him history-making longevity at the top.  (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson)
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, left) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson)

Moore said that both the House and the Senate “are close to being on the same page” for the bill.

“But at a high level, that consensus position I think is what you’re going to see,” Moore told WRAL.

Moore said that the discussed limits would include exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities and to protect the mother’s life, various news outlets reported.

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) told reporters Thursday that he wasn’t prepared to make a statement but that lawmakers are “still talking with our members.” Berger told WRAL.

Berger had mentioned the 12-week possibility during the winter, as various legislatures were reviewing their laws following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that abortion law is the province of the states.

That court ruling triggered the end of a court-ordered stay on North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban, which came in August when a judge lifted the stay. Roe v. Wade allowed for abortions up to about 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy, depending on the patient.

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

Into those reviews entered a U.S. District Court judge in Texas, who earlier this month overturned the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, which in a cocktail with misoprostol is the most common form of abortion. The Supreme Court is slated to rule on that position sometime today.

About the consensus

It’s unclear with whom the consensus Moore mentioned was being reached. A message to his spokesperson seeking that clarity did not draw an immediate response.

State Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem) during one of his pitches of Medicaid expansion.
State Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem) during one of his pitches of Medicaid expansion.

State Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), the chair of the House Health Committee, said he was not part of the group.

“I have not been part of any discussions and the proposed agreement has not been presented to caucus to my knowledge,” Lambeth wrote in an email to WGHP. “Once I know what has been agreed to, I am more than glad to reply. I have seen no bill or summary.” 

Rep. Kyle Hall (R-Stokes) said he is “unaware of any agreement on an abortion bill” and declined to comment further.

WGHP reached out to several other Republicans who represent House districts in the Piedmont Triad, but they did not respond immediately.

Total ban bill

Another question is how such a proposal might work with a bill already filed in the House to have an almost total ban on abortions in North Carolina.

House Bill 533 was filed March 29 by state Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort), its primary sponsor, as well as Rep. Ben Moss (R-Moore) and  Rep. Edward Goodwin (R-Chowan). Rep. Kevin Crutchfield (R-Cabarrus) withdrew his sponsorship.

Their bill, which would ban “abortion processes” except in cases of a spontaneous abortion of the fetus or an ectopic pregnancy, was read into the House on March 30 and assigned to the Rules Committee, as all bills are at the outset. A path to review has not been established.

It also is unclear how a “consensus bill” might be incorporated with Kidwell’s legislation, as an amendment, replacement or dueling ideas. Moore’s spokesperson was asked about that, too.

Moss, who is running for the GOP nomination for commissioner of Labor, last month released a statement about the bill: “If you are reading this, you have been blessed with the gift of life. Every human life has value from the womb to the tomb, and I am thrilled to introduce this legislation that will defend the dignity and sanctity of every person. I will continue to promote a culture of life and ensure that every child, regardless of circumstance, is given the chance to flourish and thrive.”

‘Not a good compromise’

Democrats, though, aren’t going to consider either an acceptable “consensus,” and Gov. Roy Cooper almost certainly would veto any abortion limitations that crossed his desk. With Rep. Tricia Cotham’s switch from Democrat to Republican two weeks ago, though, the GOP has veto-proof majorities if all support an override.

State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro)
State Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro)
State Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro)

“We should not be rolling back the rights North Carolina’s women have had for the past 50 years,” Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro), the House deputy Democratic chair, said in a text message to WGHP. “I do not believe there is a ‘good compromise’ on telling my daughter she cannot make her own medical decisions.”  

Said Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro): “No it’s not a good compromise. It’s still a ban with politicians inserting themselves into very personal health care decisions. Access to abortion has been very important for many pregnant women, and frequently lifesaving.”

Harrison cited data that show 1 in 4 women under 45 have had an abortion and that 6 in 10 already have children.

“Residents in 91% of NC Counties currently have no access to abortion, so adding these restrictions will make it more difficult for them to receive the care they need,” said Harrison, who has been a member of the House since 2004. “The burden falls hardest on the poor, women of color, and those in rural counties.  So, to repeat, not a good compromise.”

How candidates stand

NC Treasurer Dale Folwell (AP FILE PHOTO)
NC Treasurer Dale Folwell (AP FILE PHOTO)
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (AP FILE PHOTO)
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (AP FILE PHOTO)

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the state’s highest-ranking Republican and de facto president of the Senate, who is expected to announce on Saturday pursuit of the GOP nomination for governor, supports a total ban on abortion.

“How can you have life and liberty if you end life in the womb, and do not give people their freedom after they’re born?” Robinson said at a rally in January. “This nation is built on those ideals. And so we have to stand up for life.”

Robinson published a memoir, titled “We Are the Majority: The Life and Passions of a Patriot,” in which he briefly mentions the abortion he and his now wife, Yolanda Hill, obtained in 1989, before they were married. He has called that a mistake.

Mike Ross (Courtesy of Mike Ross)
Mike Ross, Libertarian candidate for NC governor (CANDIDATE)
NC Attorney General Josh Stein (AP)
NC Attorney General Josh Stein (AP)

State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination earlier this month, told WGHP in an email that he has “always been pro life with the three exceptions: rape, incest, danger to mother.

“I authored the unborn victims bill that allows DAs to charge for two crimes when the murder victim is pregnant,” he said. “The first case was the Flying Biscuit in CLT. . . . As governor I will enforce all laws.”

In 2011, when he was a member of the House, Folwell cosponsored House Bill 854, which established a 24-hour waiting period before abortions. Lawmakers overrode a veto by Gov. Bev Perdue to make it law.

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The only Democrat to announce a bid to replace Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein, actively has supported abortion rights and declines to defend against restrictions.

“Decisions about reproductive care are deeply personal,” Stein said last summer. “They should be made by a woman in consultation with her loved ones and her doctor. They shouldn’t be made by politicians.”

Libertarian candidate Mike Ross doesn’t specifically mention abortion among the issues on his campaign’s website, but he does say that “the government must be removed from the doctor-patient relationship.”