(WGHP) — North Carolina state Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-Mecklenburg), a former Democrat, cast one of the deciding votes to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto and seal new abortion restrictions into state law.
Senate Bill, 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.
Cooper vetoed the bill during a rally on Saturday, and, on Tuesday, both the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives passed a measure to override Cooper’s veto, securing exactly the required three-fifths of the vote needed. The Senate voted 30-20 and the House voted 72-48 along party lines.
Those party lines experienced an unexpected mid-term shift earlier this year. Cotham, who was elected as a Democrat in a Democrat-dominant district, announced in early April that she would be switching parties, giving the Republican party the supermajority needed to override Cooper’s vetoes. The move made national headlines.
Prior to the override vote, Cooper traveled the state trying to put pressure on at least one Republican to vote to sustain his veto. He specifically targeted four Republicans, including Cotham, who he believed were his best bets at stopping the override.
However, on Tuesday, Cotham voted in favor of overriding the veto, siding with her Republican colleagues. Had she remained under the Democratic Party, her vote would have been the sole Democratic vote to side with the GOP.
After the vote, Cotham released a statement describing the law as “a reasonable balance on the abortion issue.”
Cotham’s full statement is included below.
“I understand that there are extremists on both sides of the abortion issue. Some of the absolutists believe abortion is unacceptable in any circumstance and some of the absolutists believe aborting a perfectly healthy child in the 40th week of pregnancy is morally acceptable. I cannot support either of these extreme positions.
“I – like most North Carolinians – think abortion is a complicated issue without absolute answers. Abortion is an unpleasant subject for many women, and I know of no woman that considered having an abortion that did so flippantly or unseriously. Despite what some people on the fringes may claim, contemplating an abortion is a grave decision, not a choice I’ve ever known anyone to celebrate.
“After extensive review, I believe this bill strikes a reasonable balance on the abortion issue and represents a middle ground that anyone not holding one of the two extremist positions can support.
“This legislation gives women continued access to elective abortions during the first trimester of a pregnancy in consultation with their doctor. This is the timeframe when most abortions occur. However, this bill ends elective late term abortions in North Carolina. While crucially providing exceptions for rape, incest, severe fetal abnormalities, and to protect the life of the mother. Women continue to be guaranteed unrestricted care in the event of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
“I insisted that any abortion legislation include meaningful support and protections to mothers and children to give them the best chance at a good life. This bill provides hundreds of millions of dollars in support for paid parental leave, maternal healthcare, foster care, contraception, and community college tuition and job placement supports to ensure that women and their children have choices, protections and pathways to success. Finally, this bill provides important protections to mothers and children by keeping weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers and ensuring sexual child predators have lifetime GPS monitoring and tracking.
“Some call me a hypocrite since I voted for this bill. They presume to know my story. As I said at the time, I had an ectopic pregnancy that sadly ended in miscarriage, not an elective abortion. In fact, Senate Bill 20 affirms the life-saving care I received in that dire situation. It was very important to me that this legislation protects all women going through a miscarriage or other complications – and it most certainly does.”
Cotham faced backlash from Democratic voters, including calls for her to step down, after her decision to become a Republican.
She said she made her decision because the “modern-day Democratic party has become unrecognizable to me and others across the state.” She switched parties to escape the pressure she said she faced to vote with the Democratic caucus, declaring, “I will not be controlled by anyone.”
The representative said Democrats have been “blasting me on Twitter to calling me names, coming after my family, coming after my children. That is wrong.” She said that a woman cussed her out at a store while she was shopping with her son.
The turning point for Cotham, she said, was when she says she received criticism for using the American flag and praying hands emoji on social media and on her vehicles.