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Vetoing Anti-Abortion Bill, North Carolina's Governor Pushes Back Against Right-Wing 'Propaganda'

"Victory for reproductive freedom!" declared the ACLU's state chapter

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed an anti-abortion bill on Thursday. (Photo: North Carolina Department of Transportation/Flickr/cc)

Reproductive rights advocates praised North Carolina's Democratic governor for blocking an anti-abortion bill and pushing back against right-wing "propaganda"—though it remains possible that state lawmakers will override his veto.

"This needless legislation would criminalize doctors and other healthcare providers for a practice that simply does not exist."
—Gov. Roy Cooper

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday that he was vetoing the so-called "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act," or Senate Bill 359 (pdf).

"Laws already protect newborn babies and this bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients," Cooper said in a statement. "This needless legislation would criminalize doctors and other healthcare providers for a practice that simply does not exist."

Applauding the governor's decision, the state's Democratic Party tweeted, "SB 359 is a partisan bill grounded in anti-choice rhetoric, not medical science."

Both national and local rights groups celebrated Cooper's move.

"Victory for reproductive freedom!" declared the ACLU of North Carolina.

"Thank you to [Gov. Cooper] for vetoing this extreme legislation," NARAL Pro-Choice America said on Twitter, "AND dispelling anti-choice propaganda!"

"Wow—this is huge," said Planned Parenthood Action. The group thanked Cooper "for standing up for healthcare providers in North Carolina and vetoing a bill that was based in neither science nor reality."

The Center for Reproductive Rights also welcomed the news, charging that the blocked bill was designed to "shame and intimidate people who seek and provide abortion."

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The group noted that Cooper's decision comes after a federal judge last month struck down another anti-choice measure, which banned abortion after 20 weeks except for medical emergencies.

While critics of the bill celebrated a win on Thursday, there is still uncertainty about whether Cooper's veto will stick.

The News & Observer pointed out Thursday that "nearly all of Cooper's previous vetoes have been overridden by the legislature, although this is the first bill he has vetoed since Democrats flipped enough seats in the 2018 elections to take away Republicans' veto-proof supermajority."

As the Raleigh-based newspaper reported:

Now, Republicans will need at least some Democrats to join them to override Cooper's veto.

While normal bills only require a simple majority to pass, veto overrides require support from 60 percent of the legislators present. When the bill passed the House and the Senate earlier this week, it did not gain 60 percent support in either chamber.

However, neither vote was taken with all legislators present, so it’s unclear what might happen if an override vote is called in the future.

Only two Democrats in the Senate and four in the House voted in favor of the bill, according to Bloomberg, so "supporters likely would need another few House Democrats to join them to complete an override of the veto."

The fight in North Carolina comes as Republican state legislators across the country continue to roll back reproductive rights. Georgia recently enacted a "heartbeat bill," which bans the abortion after about six weeks, and lawmakers in Texas are considering a proposal to subject women to the death penalty if they terminate a pregnancy.

There is also an ongoing effort to restrict abortion through congressional action. Earlier this month, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was widely condemned by reproductive rights advocates for hosting a hearing on his bill to ban the procedure after 20 weeks. Dr. Kristyn Brandi of Physicians for Reproductive Health accused him and other anti-choice lawmakers of using the hearing "to spread misinformation and stigma about abortion care."

Many activists and political observers argue that these ultra-restrictive measures are part of a broad, obvious ploy to force the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its landmark Roe v. Wade decision that affirmed the constitutional right to safe, legal abortion.

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