North Carolina State Rep. Tricia Cotham speaks at a press conference

North Carolina State Rep. Tricia Cotham speaks at a press conference on April 5, 2023.

(Photo: Queen City News/YouTube Screengrab)

Former Democrat Gives NC GOP Veto-Proof Majority to Pass 12-Week Abortion Ban

"The people of North Carolina did not give Republicans a supermajority of the state House," said one progressive group. "Only the duplicity and corruption of Tricia Cotham did."

A pro-forced pregnancy bill passed in North Carolina late Thursday is likely to become law despite the objections of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper thanks largely to a sudden decision by state Rep. Tricia Cotham last month to join the Republican Party after years as a pro-choice Democrat—giving the GOP a veto-proof majority.

The state Senate on Thursday passed Senate Bill 20, which includes a ban on abortion care after 12 weeks of pregnancy along with other restrictions, less than 48 hours after they unveiled the legislation at a press conference on Tuesday. The bill was inserted into a separate piece of legislation instead of being officially introduced in the Legislature, taking Democrats and advocacy groups by surprise and allowing no time for public hearings.

According toThe Washington Post, Republicans were deliberately secretive about the crafting of the legislation, which was written in secret meetings in recent weeks where members were forbidden from having their own copies of documents to avoid leaks, in order to prevent advocates from organizing protests at the state Capitol.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic still managed to spearhead a rally on Wednesday, where state Attorney General Josh Stein warned the bill is a "massive first step" toward a total abortion ban, despite Republican claims that a 12-week ban is more "mainstream" than bans starting at six weeks of gestation or at any stage in pregnancy, which have been passed in 15 states including the majority of states in the Southeast.

The bill includes "exceptions" for pregnancies that result from rape or incest through 20 weeks, certain fetal abnormalities through 24 weeks, and for life-threatening complications for a pregnant person.

Numerous cases since the right-wing majority of the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June have shown that such exceptions put patients through weeks of physical and emotional trauma as doctors and hospitals—fearing litigation under the new laws—refuse to provide treatment until their lives are sufficiently in danger.

S.B. 20 also includes restrictions such a requirement that anyone who obtains an abortion before 12 weeks of pregnancy also see their medical provider 72 hours before the procedure, likely cutting off access to out-of-state people, many of whom have traveled to North Carolina from other parts of the South since Roe was overturned, and to people who don't have paid leave or access to childcare.

If the bill becomes law, said NARAL Pro-Choice America, "abortion access across the Southeast will be further decimated."

Cooper told the Post he plans to veto the bill after a delay of up to 10 days to give North Carolina residents time to "digest this very complicated, burdensome legislation that they haven't had a chance to even see," but the governor will have to convince at least one Republican to break the party's veto-proof majority to stop the bill from becoming law.

Because Cotham (R-112) announced just last month that she was joining the GOP, the party now has the 72 House seats it needs to override a veto in the 120-seat state House.

Politics in the state are shifting to the right "with extraordinary speed," said Daniel Nichanian of Bolts.

Cotham announced her decision to change parties three months after co-sponsoring a bill to codify abortion rights in state law, and five months after winning her election following a vehemently pro-choice campaign. She also spoke about her own abortion on the state House floor in 2015 during a debate over abortion restrictions. On Wednesday, she voted with the Republicans in favor of S.B. 20.

"The people of North Carolina did not give Republicans a supermajority of the state House," said the progressive group Carolina Forward. "Only the duplicity and corruption of Tricia Cotham did these things."

Cooper told the Post he plans to lobby Republicans who have claimed to support abortion rights—including state Rep. Ted Davis (R-19), who did not vote on Wednesday—to tank the GOP's effort to override his veto.

Republicans are "trying to dress this up as a reasonable 12-week ban," the governor told the Post. "It's not."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.