Despite expected failure, NC Democrats push to protect abortion by codifying Roe v. Wade
Democrats in both chambers of the General Assembly filed a bill Wednesday to codify Roe v. Wade into North Carolina law.
House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 19, both called the Codify Roe and Casey Protections Act, would reinstate the main holdings from the landmark Supreme Court case, which prevented states from restricting abortion before fetal viability, which generally occurs around 24 weeks into a pregnancy.
“Last summer, the Supreme Court — turning its back on 50 years of precedent — robbed the American people of this basic right,” House Minority Leader Robert Reives said at a press conference Thursday morning. “...I am proud that our caucuses decided to introduce this bill, to let every North Carolinian know that we are ready to stand up and protect their values, their choices and their freedom.”
HB 19 and its Senate counterpart have little chance of passing the Republican-controlled legislature. Republican House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County said Wednesday he doesn’t expect it will reach a committee hearing.
“They certainly have a right to file the bill,” Moore said. “But I don’t anticipate a majority will want to take that.”
Democrats argued that the bill’s introduction is important, even if it is unlikely to come to a vote.
“We’re hoping that through this we are going to be heard by the people that matter, and that’s the citizens in the state and most importantly the women in this state,” Rep. Becky Carney, a Mecklenburg Democrat and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said in a press conference Thursday. “They are listening, they want action.”
Republican leaders have pledged to pass further abortion restrictions this session, lowering the cutoff from the current 20-week ban. Republicans still haven’t released a proposal for restricting abortion, though during last year’s campaign several candidates called for a fetal heartbeat bill, which would ban abortion after about six weeks.
Sen. Sydney Batch, a Wake County Democrat and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said Democrats are willing to negotiate with Republicans, but are not interested in supporting any cutoff point before the standard set in Roe v. Wade.
“This is our baseline,” she said. “If Republicans want to negotiate with us, they can come to our doors, they’re always open, and we can talk about this being on the floor and then us improving it. But going down is not what we’re here for. That’s the reason why we filed this bill.”
With a supermajority in the Senate and one vote shy of a supermajority in the House, Republicans are confident they can pass further restrictions on abortion largely along party lines, even if they are shot down by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. However, if the governor does veto a potential ban, Republicans in the House would need to get at least one Democrat in the House to either vote with them or abstain from voting.
Reives said he’s not worried about members of his caucus voting with Republicans to overturn a veto on abortion restrictions.
“At this point, I’m not concerned,” he said. “I can only go by past performance, and past performance has been that when there has been a veto, we’ve held the veto.”
Four Democrats who are seen as potential swing votes were given committee chair positions by Republican leadership. None of those Democrats were present at Thursday’s press conference, and only one of them, Rep. Tricia Cotham is listed as a sponsor of HB 19.