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Gov. Roy Cooper to veto abortion bill at Saturday rally

Hundreds of abortion rights supporters held a rally in Raleigh on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, against new abortion restrictions proposed by state Republicans.
Colin Campbell
Hundreds of abortion rights supporters held a rally in Raleigh on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, against new abortion restrictions proposed by state Republicans.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper plans to hold a rally Saturday morning in Raleigh to veto legislation banning abortions after 12 weeks.

Cooper usually vetoes bills privately in his office, announcing his decision in a press release. This time he'll take his veto stamp to a much more public setting. He’s co-hosting the 10 a.m. rally outside the legislature — on the grassy plaza known as the Halifax Mall — with a group called the North Carolina Reproductive Freedom Coalition, which includes Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights organizations.

Cooper said in a video that the bill goes beyond restricting abortions after the first trimester.

"They say this is a reasonable 12-week ban. It’s not," Cooper said. "The fine-print requirements and restrictions will shut down clinics and make abortion completely unavailable to many women at any time, causing desperation and death."

Supporters of the bill say the additional requirements are intended to educate women about their options. They dispute Cooper’s claim that it would make it harder to get an abortion before 12 weeks.

"Nothing in this bill bars a woman from obtaining an elective surgical or medical abortion before the second and third trimester limits take effect," Senate Republican bill sponsors said in a Friday news release.

Demi Dowdy, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Tim Moore, took to Twitter to rebut the governor.

Under the bill, all abortions would be legal through 12 weeks of pregnancy — down from 20 weeks under current state law.

Victims of rape or incest would be able to get an abortion through 20 weeks of pregnancy, and abortions would be legal through 24 weeks when doctors diagnose a “life-limiting anomaly,” a disorder that would limit the lifespan of the child. Abortions would be available at any point for women with a medical emergency.

While abortions before 12 weeks would remain legal, patients would face additional hurdles. It requires in-person doctor visits for patients seeking medication abortions and mandates that a doctor must be present when abortion medication is administered. It adds new informed consent requirements, and it increases licensing requirements and regulatory fees for abortion providers.

Republicans are expected to have enough votes to override Cooper’s veto. That could happen as soon as next week.

Cooper has been publicly pressuring four GOP lawmakers to change their minds, pointing to statements they made last year opposing new restrictions. They are Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, and Reps. Tricia Cotham, R-Mecklenburg, Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, and John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg.

Cooper held three events this week, including locations in or near the four legislators' districts, to highlight concerns from medical professionals about the legislation.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.