Abortion roundup: NC governor to veto 12-week ban as state battles heat up across U.S.

North Carolina Capitol North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh. | Shutterstock

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, intends to veto a bill from the Republican-led Legislature that would ban most abortions at the 12-week mark as legislative and legal feuds over abortion policies continue to rage in states across the country.

The legislation would reduce the state’s limit on legalized abortion by eight weeks. 

It would set a 20-week cutoff in cases of rape and incest and a 24-week cutoff in cases of life-threatening fetal anomalies. There would be an exception in cases in which the life of the mother is at risk. 

The legislation passed the House 71-46 on May 3 and the Senate 29-20 on May 4 with all Republicans voting for the bill and all Democrats voting against it. Cooper plans to veto it on Saturday at a pro-abortion rally.

Cooper could be at risk of having his veto overridden. Although Republicans have a supermajority in the House and the Senate, the governor told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that one Republican breaking with the party would prevent his veto from being overridden. 

“They only have a supermajority by one vote in the Senate and one vote in the House and we’ve seen Republicans across the country step up,” Cooper said. “I’m going to go into their districts … this week. We’re going to have forums with doctors and advocates and women who care deeply about the restrictions in this legislation and we’re going to educate the public.”

The North Carolina bill was part of a flurry of legislative action in recent weeks on the abortion issue.

In Montana, Gov. Greg Gianforte approved more abortion restrictions.

Gianforte, a Republican, signed a package of pro-life bills on May 3; however, one of those bills has already been temporarily blocked by a judge.

A bill that would require women to receive an ultrasound before they can obtain an abortion was signed into law last week, but a judge blocked the law the day after it was signed. The judge granted emergency relief to Planned Parenthood, which filed the lawsuit immediately after the governor signed it.

The judge agreed to block the legislation due to a 1999 Montana Supreme Court ruling that the state constitution’s right to privacy guarantees a right to an abortion. However, lawmakers are asking the Montana Supreme Court to revisit that ruling in light of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which claimed a constitutional right to an abortion based on similar grounds. 

One of the bills signed by the governor clarifies under Montana law that the state constitution’s right to privacy does not guarantee a right to abortion, which directly conflicts with the precedent set in 1999 and seeks to force the court to directly review that language. 

“For years in Montana, abortion activists have used the cloak of a shaky legal interpretation to advance their pro-abortion agenda,” Gianforte said in a statement. “That stops today. No more.”

Other bills signed by the governor strengthen laws that ensure taxpayer money is not used to pay for abortions and that children who are born after botched abortions must be saved. The legislative package also imposes stricter requirements on abortion clinics to provide documents related to medical and safety standards.

The legislative package also includes a bill that protects a medical worker’s right of conscience by banning employers from discriminating against a person who refuses to perform or assist with an abortion.

Another bill creates a $1,200 refundable child tax credit for children under the age of 6 and an adoption tax credit of up to $7,500. 

“As we stand firm for life, we must also ensure all Montana kids, from unborn babies to teenagers, have the opportunity to reach their full God-given potential,” Gianforte said. “Folks, this must be one of the next chapters of our pro-life, pro-child, pro-family agenda.”

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In Nebraska, Republican state Sen. Ben Hansen introduced a legislative amendment that would ban abortions at 12 weeks.

The May 8 amendment comes less than two weeks after one Republican lawmaker, Sen. Merv Riepe, refused to vote in favor of a six-week ban. Riepe, instead, wanted to move the cutoff to 12 weeks. His refusal caused the unicameral Legislature to fall one vote shy of the 33 senators needed to end debate and bring the bill to a floor vote. 

Harrison’s amendment is intended to bring Riepe on board with the abortion restrictions so that the Legislature can approve restrictions before the end of the legislative session. 

The amendment was attached to legislation that would prohibit doctors from providing gender transition drugs and performing gender transition surgery on minors. 

In Maryland, Democratic Gov. Wes Moore signed a handful of pro-abortion bills.

One of the bills, signed on May 3, calls for a state referendum to enshrine a right to an abortion in the state’s constitution. 

The measure is strongly opposed by the Maryland Catholic Conference. 

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“We believe that every person is created in the image and likeness of God and all life should be protected and respected from conception to natural death,” a statement read. “There is no need for a constitutional amendment; unfortunately, Maryland currently has one of the highest rates of abortion in the country and Maryland is already a destination in the abortion travel industry.”

The other bills establish more privacy protections for medical documents related to abortion, prohibit judges from forcing a person to provide testimony related to an illegal abortion in another state, and require higher-education institutions to develop reproductive health services plans. 

In Michigan, the House and Senate approved legislation that would amend the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to ban workplace discrimination against women who receive an abortion. 

The Democrat-backed measure would prevent employers from firing or taking any other action against a woman who receives an abortion. The bill was presented on May 9 to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is expected to sign it. 

It received opposition from the Michigan Catholic Conference. 

“This bill violates human dignity by attempting to equate elective abortion — which intentionally ends a child’s life — with giving birth to a child,” a statement read. “It also violates the deeply held beliefs of employers that provide benefits in accordance with their conscience and beliefs about the dignity of human life.”

In Oregon, most Senate Republicans staged walkouts the past two weeks, preventing the chamber from reaching a quorum, which is needed to vote on legislation.

The repeated walkouts have prevented senators from voting on a legislative package, which includes a bill that would allow minors to receive an abortion without parental consent or notification. It’s unclear how long the boycott will continue because lawmakers who receive 10 unexcused absences are barred from running for reelection.

Senate Republicans have claimed that Democratic lawmakers have violated the readability standard with several pieces of legislation, which is why they are staging the walkout. 

“They’ve chosen to try to force unlawful bills, unconstitutional bills across the floor, and we are not going to allow that to happen,” Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp said in a statement. 

In Utah, legislation that would have forced all abortion clinics in the state to shut down was blocked by an order from Judge Andrew Stone.

Utah law allows for abortions up to 18 weeks of pregnancy. The law would have allowed hospitals to continue offering abortions up to that stage but would have prevented the state from granting new licenses to abortion clinics and would have gradually phased out abortion clinics that are currently operating.

The judge ruled on May 2 that the law singled out abortion clinics without justification and that it placed a greater burden on abortion clinics than hospitals. 

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