A GOP abortion bill surfaces, but not the one everyone in NC has been waiting for

It was nearly a year ago when a leaked draft opinion revealed that the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to strike down Roe v. Wade and open the door for states to enact whatever abortion restrictions they saw fit.

Since then, North Carolina Republicans have vowed to pass a new abortion law, winning enough seats in last year’s election to bring them within a single seat of a supermajority. And they have begun closed-door discussions on what the new abortion bill should look like.

But in the more than two months that lawmakers have been in session this year, the House and Senate GOP caucuses have yet to come up with a consensus the entire party can get behind. And while those private discussions have continued, Republicans have refrained from putting forth any bills.

So, when a few House Republicans filed their own proposal on Wednesday — a ban at the point of conception that includes an exception for the life of the mother — it caught some by surprise.

It’s worth remembering, though, that just because a bill has been filed, that doesn’t mean that it’s going anywhere.

The abortion ban’s sponsors

House Bill 533, introduced by Reps. Keith Kidwell, Ben Moss and Ed Goodwin, would impose criminal and civil penalties for performing or attempting abortions. Doctors who perform abortions would also have their medical licenses revoked.

“Every human life has value from the womb to the tomb, and I am thrilled to introduce this legislation that will defend the dignity and sanctity of every person,” said Moss, who represents Moore and Richmond counties, in a statement. “I will continue to promote a culture of life and ensure that every child, regardless of circumstance, is given the chance to flourish and thrive.”

Abortion rights groups were quick to condemn the proposal, calling it a “dangerous bill” and one that would “endanger people’s lives.”

What the real-deal proposal might look like

Republican working groups have reportedly been debating two main proposals over the last several weeks. One is a six-week ban, which House Speaker Tim Moore has said he personally supports. The second would be a first-trimester ban, which Senate leader Phil Berger has said he supports.

Neither are total bans at the point of conception. But both proposals would still significantly change current law, which prohibits abortions after 20 weeks, with an exception for medical emergencies. And that law itself is relatively new, having gone into effect last summer after Roe was struck down. Before then, abortions were legal up until the point of viability.

Moore’s office confirmed that discussions in the House remain ongoing, and that House Republicans haven’t been working on a conception ban.

“HB 533 does not reflect the work of the working group or the consensus product we expect to emerge from those discussions,” Moore spokesperson Demi Dowdy said.

When the consensus bill is released, there will likely be a few ways of telling that it’s the real deal.

First, since a more restrictive abortion law to protect the unborn has been a key priority for Republican lawmakers and voters, it makes sense to expect that party leaders will unveil the proposal themselves, with several of their colleagues by their side. The final bill will have been the product of months of talks, so expect Republicans to want to make a show of force — emphasizing that the entire party, or at least the vast majority, is fully behind the proposal.

The contents of the bill will also be worth watching. Republicans seem to be trying to find the right combination of a bill that satisfies their most-impassioned voters, and is at the same time as close as possible to what the average North Carolinian thinks about the issue.

A bill banning abortion at conception isn’t exactly in step with a broad segment of public opinion.

NC reacts to Trump indictment

Former President Donald Trump had said nearly two weeks ago that he expected to be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury imminently. It later appeared that an indictment would not come until mid-April.

But on Thursday, just hours after members of Congress left Washington for a two-week-long recess, the news broke that Trump had been indicted in connection to an alleged hush money payment he made to the porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

Danielle Battaglia reported on how the news was received in North Carolina, and how Republicans and Democrats agree that the indictment of a former president marks a sad day, but they disagree on why.

Budget season is upon us

In the same week the legislature overrode the first veto from Gov. Roy Cooper since 2018 and repealed the state’s pistol purchase permit law, House Republicans also unveiled their two-year budget proposal.

After poring over hundreds of pages of budget documents, here are a few highlights from our Dawn Vaughan, Keung Hui and Korie Dean.

NC House budget proposal calls for 10% teacher raises, 7.5% for state workers.

NC House budget would make it easier for parents to challenge ‘unfit’ school materials.

NC House budget gives better pension payout to one person, with the state paying for it.

Top Republicans remove special retirement benefit from NC budget after N&O story.

UNC School of Civic Life would receive millions in state funding under House budget.

Class-size limits, charter school changes, ban on COVID shot mandates in NC House budget.

Thanks for reading. See you next week. In the meantime, tune into our stories, our tweets and our Under the Dome podcast for more developments.

— By Avi Bajpai, reporter for The News & Observer. Email me at abajpai@newsobserver.com.