Veto Sets Up Abortion Law Standoff In North Carolina

The veto of a 12-week abortion ban by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) deepened the divide between the Republican-dominated legislature and the Democratic governor. The legislature may override the governor’s veto, which would make North Carolina another state to strengthen abortion limits since last year’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling.

The Democrat’s veto may only temporarily delay the bill becoming law. Should all Republicans vote the same way in the state’s legislature, they would be able to overturn the governor’s veto.

Cooper told supporters that if “just one Republican in either the House or the Senate keeps a campaign promise to protect women’s reproductive health, we can stop this ban.”

Cooper asked North Carolina residents to contact Republican legislators to vote against the bill. 

State Sen. Phil Berger (R-NC) said that the governor was “feeding the public lies.” The head of the legislative chamber also said that Cooper was “bullying” Republicans over the legislation. 

“I look forward to promptly overriding his veto,” Berger said.

Much of the debate regarding abortion is happening in the shadow of one of the most consequential party shifts in the state’s recent history.

The defection of state Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-NC) represented a considerable advantage for North Carolina’s Republican Party. 

The party switch allowed Republicans to have a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature capable of overriding the governor’s vetoes. 

The switch also comes after the first Republican-led override of Cooper’s veto in five years. Cotham was one of three Democrats to not vote on a measure regarding handgun purchase permits, which allowed Republicans in the state’s General Assembly to override Cooper’s veto.

The switch may make the key difference in what will likely be a narrow vote regarding overturning the governor’s veto. Cotham voted in favor of the new abortion limit.

Cooper is serving in his third term, having won reelection in 2020 by 4.5% in a state that Trump won twice.

The political struggle over abortion in North Carolina is not unique to the state. Florida recently passed a 6-week abortion ban, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).