By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
April 7, 2023
Republican lawmakers should be able to pass legislation this session to further limit abortion, but whether they will remains to be seen.
On Friday, Rep. Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, giving the GOP a supermajority in the House and virtually stripping Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper of his veto power, since they already held a supermajority in the Senate.
However, the way Cotham would vote on abortion and even whether the party can craft a bill that they can agree on is questionable.
Months before Cotham’s move, which she said was the result of being bullied by Democrats, Republican leaders had been signaling that they planned to push through a bill that would ban abortion sometime between six and 13 weeks, with a few exceptions. While many surrounding states cracked down on the deadly procedure in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, North Carolina, which allows abortions up to 20 weeks, had become a haven of abortion-seekers, a situation GOP leaders want to remedy.
But so far, the abortion bills that have been filed are at opposite ends of the spectrum and not likely to go anywhere. In January, Democrats filed House Bill 19 in an attempt to codify Roe v. Wade. Late in March, they filed a similar bill “An Act to Remove Barriers to Gain Access to Abortion.” Both are languishing in the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House.
More recently, a handful of Republicans filed House Bill 533, which would ban abortion in the state unless carrying the baby to term would endanger the mother’s life. The bill would create criminal penalties for abortionists and $100,000 fines for women who have one.
“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,” Representative Ben Moss (Richmond), one of the bill’s sponsors, told the media. Rep. Keith Kidwell (Beaufort) and Rep. Ed Goodwin, (Chowan) joined Moss on the bill, which is referred to as the “Human Life Protection Act.”
“As much as we would love to see this legislation become the law of the land, its chances of advancing are virtually nil,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We hope that Republicans will come up with a proposal that the majority can support. Otherwise, the state will remain a place where abortion is legal all the way to 20 weeks.”
While there has been talk of a possible heartbeat ban or a ban on abortions past the sixth week of pregnancy, those following the issue say a first-trimester ban (13 weeks) is more likely to garner needed support for an override of Cooper’s expected veto.
Cotham has not said how she would vote on the issue. When asked about a ban on abortions after 13 weeks, she told the media, “I’m not going to give any type of number on anything. There’s a piece of good advice I learned a long time ago: don’t discuss legislation that’s not before you, so I’m not going to do that.”
A spokesperson from House Speaker Tim Moore’s office told the media that abortion law discussions are ongoing and that the ban proposed in House Bill 533 is not indicative of what they expect to emerge from those talks.
Meanwhile pro-life groups are pushing for action. Caitlin Connors, SBA Pro-Life America’s Southern regional director, told Axios that “allowing for abortion up to 20 weeks” is not acceptable. “And doing nothing to change that existing law is not acceptable.”