RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Even as Gov. Roy Cooper campaigns around the state trying to put pressure on lawmakers not to override his imminent veto of Senate Bill 20 – which restructures abortion law in North Carolina – he has a new weapon to use.

A poll released Wednesday by Carolina Forward – a progressive news site – shows that likely voters in North Carolina surveyed after SB 20 was approved by the Senate on Thursday after 48 hours of review don’t support the limitations in that bill.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The “Care for Women Children and Families Act” tightens to 12 weeks – from the post-Supreme-Court-reinstated 20 weeks – the window for an elective abortion, retaining exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother and fetal abnormalities that could occur after 12 weeks.

This 46-page conference bill, which filled the text of a bill that already had passed, was approved along party lines, with a couple of absences, when the first vote came less than 24 hours after the bill was revealed.

Cooper, a Democrat, has said he will veto the bill, most likely this Saturday, but Republicans hold a veto-proof margin – 60% of members – in both chambers, which would allow for an override.

North Carolina state Rep. Tricia Cotham announces she is switching affiliation to the Republican Party. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

So Cooper has been trying to leverage support from among four Republicans – one of them a Democrat until last month – who had campaigned against changing abortion law.

Carolina Forward’s poll of 802 likely voters conducted this past weekend shows that more than half of those surveyed (54%) at least somewhat oppose the bill, and 40% at least somewhat support it.

Those responses were to this question presented by the polling firm Change Research: “State lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would change the limit of the number of weeks a woman could access abortion care to 12 weeks from the current 20 weeks. Do you support or oppose this bill?”

Abortion rights supporters gather at a rally at Bicentennial Plaza put on by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in response to a bill before the North Carolina Legislature, Wednesday, May 3, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Abortion rights supporters gather at a rally at Bicentennial Plaza put on by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in response to a bill before the North Carolina Legislature. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Most respondents were women older than 50, nearly 40% of whom had at least a bachelor’s degree. Most had voted for Donald Trump in 2020, were registered Republican and said they were more likely to vote for Republican Mark Robinson for governor in 2024. The plus-minus on the poll is 3.9%.

A strong plurality (59%) said that abortion should be legal in most cases, and 39% said abortion should not be restricted. Another 20% approved the current 20 weeks. Only 1 in 10 said abortion should be illegal in all cases, but 18% said abortion is never acceptable.

Comparatively, here are four other polls:

  • A WGHP/Emerson College/The Hill Poll of likely voters conducted last summer – after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in its Dobbs decision– showed that a plurality (39%) thought the General Assembly should make it easier to access abortion, and 32% thought legislators should make it more difficult. Just less than 1 in 3 (29%) said they shouldn’t do anything about the law at that time.
  • Earlier this year Meredith College Poll found that more than half of respondents to a poll of voters wanted to keep or expand the current law (20 weeks), and about 33% wanted further restrictions.
  • A poll of all adults in North Carolina – not just likely voters – by Pew Research found that 49% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 45% said it should be illegal in all or most cases.
  • A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in the spring of 2022 (before Dobbs) found that 54% of Americans thought Roe v. Wade should be upheld, and 28% believed it should be overturned. That poll also found that 57% opposed their state making abortions legal only in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, and 58% opposed limiting abortion to the first six weeks of pregnancy.
  • A national Gallup Poll conducted in May 2022 showed that by far respondents prefer abortions to be available in the first trimester over any other time – consistently more than 6 in 10 since first polled in 1996. The most recent poll showed that to be 2 out of 3, compared to 36% for the second trimester.

State Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), who introduced SB 20 last Tuesday night, said on at least two occasions that a poll conducted in March had found that 57% of North Carolina voters supported an abortion ban at the end of the first trimester. That was based on a poll of issues by CPR NC 2023 Survey from March, that was shared by Republican leadership.

In addition to the preference for first-trimester limits, the poll shows that only 12% were hard pro-life and 6% were unsure. Everyone else surveyed supported access to abortion with various caveats, with 28% saying abortion should be legal in all cases.

“Abortion is slowly becoming a consensus issue in most parts of the country, including in North Carolina,” Carolina Forward Executive Director Blair Reeves said in a release with the polling data. “There is persistently about a third of the electorate who supports more restrictions, including a total ban on abortion with no exceptions.

“This group tends to additionally support new restrictions on birth control and women’s health more generally. They’re far from a majority of voters, but in a deeply gerrymandered state like ours, this group has a very outsized voice in Republican primaries.”

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.

State Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) (WGHP)

State Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) spoke fervently on the Senate floor in support of SB 20, and she said it could have been much more restrictive.

“There are many in our caucus who would like to have seen a much more restrictive bill, but the reality is that would not get enacted into law,” Galey wrote in an email to WGHP before the Senate voted.

“This bill will save the lives of unborn children but respects the autonomy of women during early pregnancy.  North Carolina is a leader in the nation with its commonsense, reasonable approach to this difficult and complicated issue.”