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North Carolina Legislature Overrides Governor's Abortion Veto

It was expected, and now it's happened: The North Carolina legislature, after passing a semi-strict abortion bill, has overriden Gov. Roy Cooper's (D-NC) veto of that bill. It was an entirely party-line vote, made possible by the new veto-proof majority afforded by state Rep. Tricia Cotham's (R) having switched parties.

We used the descriptor "semi-strict" to distinguish the bill from the more aggressive bills seen in the Deep South and many other red states, which generally set the cutoff at 6 weeks, and which often offer little to nothing in the way of exceptions. The North Carolina bill sets the cutoff at 12 weeks, which is extended to 20 weeks for cases of rape and incest, and 24 weeks if life-threatening anomalies are discovered. Doctors are also theoretically allowed to perform abortions at any point if "an abortion is necessary to avert death," although that sort of stipulation ends up being messy in practice. Among other problems, there are complications that predictably will become life threatening, but might not be so at the moment of examination. So, is an abortion necessary to avert death in those circumstances? Who knows, and many physicians are not enthusiastic about the possibility of finding out and potentially losing their license.

This "semi-strict" bill is a clear attempt to thread the needle. Given North Carolina's status as a purple state, opinion on abortion is about as divided as it could be. A Pew Research poll reports that 49% of North Carolinians would like abortion to remain legal in all/most cases, while 45% would like it to be illegal in all/most cases. A Meredith College poll takes a slightly different approach, and found that about 20% of North Carolinians wanted a more liberal law than what the state previously had (20-week ban), 30% liked the law just the way it was, and 30% wanted a stricter law. If Meredith has it right, then 30% of the state's voters just won out over 50% of the state's voters, which is kind of par for the course for North Carolina governance.

Now, we will see if this kind of needle threading is possible. Is the new, stricter law still flexible enough that it won't aggravate moderate voters too much? Is the new, stricter law flexible to the point that conservative voters won't be happy? As we have pointed out numerous times, the North Carolina legislature is gerrymandered six ways to Sunday in favor of the Republicans, a situation that could produce devastating results for the GOP if there's anything close to a blue wave in 2024. Or, perhaps more accurately, a pro-choice wave. (Z)

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