North Carolina Republican leaders failed on Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of legislation that would have created a new crime against doctors and nurses who fail to care for an infant delivered during an unsuccessful abortion.
Enough Democrats sided with Cooper to block the override, which required 72 votes of support. The vote was 67-53 in favor of the override. The Senate had voted to override in April.
The unsuccessful override hands a victory to abortion-rights groups and allied lawmakers after a series of legislative defeats in recent weeks in other states, such as Alabama.
The "born alive" measure would have directed health care practitioners to grant newborns delivered after an abortion the same protections as other patients. Cooper's veto message said the measure was unnecessary and laws already protect newborns.
President Donald Trump has expressed support for "born alive" bills. The Wisconsin legislature gave final approval to a similar measure earlier Wednesday, and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers already has promised to veto it.
Wednesday's actions were the latest in a recent string of state abortion legislation. In Alabama, GOP Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that makes performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases unless necessary for the mother's health. The law provides no exception for rape and incest. Governors in Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.
The North Carolina House vote reflected the new partisan makeup of the House and Senate chambers since January, when six years of veto-proof GOP majorities ended after Democratic seat gains in November. Now Republicans must get help from a handful of Democrats to override Cooper's vetoes.
Although four House Democrats initially voted for the "Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act" in April, only two of them stuck with the measure Wednesday.
Republicans in the state Senate needed to capture the vote of just one Democrat for an override, which they did soon after the abortion veto.
Democrats and allies opposed to the bill said North Carolina already has laws on the books against infanticide, doctors already are regulated by medical boards and physicians aren't neglecting these newborns.
The bill's supporters attempted a full-court press before Wednesday's vote, bringing in two women who said they had survived unsuccessful abortions in the 1970s and 1980s.
Still, the frequency of doctors neglecting these live infants is unclear.
The North Carolina Values Coalition said five states have reported at least 25 children were born alive during attempted abortions in 2017. North Carolina keeps no such statistics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 140 infant deaths in induced terminations nationwide from 2003 to 2014. It hasn't specified what level of care those newborns received.