Health CareNews & Opinion

Charlotteans React as 12-Week Abortion Ban Moves Through General Assembly

About 50 people protest bill outside Government Center

A group of people stand in a circle, some of whom holding signs, to hear a speaker talk against the proposed abortion ban.
More than 50 people showed up outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center on Wednesday to protest the proposed 12-week abortion ban. (Photo by Annie Keough)

The North Carolina House on Wednesday passed Senate Bill 20, a bill being fast-tracked through the North Carolina General Assembly that would ban abortion after 12 weeks, in a 71-46 vote along party lines. It’s expected to pass through the state Senate on Thursday.*  

The bill tightens previous restrictions on abortion procedures from a 20-week maximum to 12 week, only allowing abortions up to 20 weeks for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and 24 weeks for existing “life-limiting anomalies,” with no limit to abortions carried out due to a threat to the pregnant person’s life.

The bill also subjects physicians to a $5,000 fine per violation and reports to the medical board for failure to comply.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who has long supported abortion rights, tweeted before Wednesday’s vote that he will veto the bill. 

“[SB 20] will effectively ban access to reproductive freedom earlier and sometimes altogether for many women because of new restrictions and requirements,” read Cooper’s statement. “This is why Republicans are ramming it through with no chance to amend. I will veto this extreme ban and need everyone’s help to hold it.”

Cooper was referring to holding the veto against an override from Republicans, but since N.C. House Rep. Tricia Cotham’s switch to the Republican Party in April, the state GOP does have a supermajority in both General Assembly chambers that allows them to override the Governor’s veto without any help from Democrats. 

As many people pointed out on social media Wednesday, Cotham voted in support of Senate Bill 20 a year to the day after she tweeted out her support for codifying Roe v. Wade in North Carolina.

“Now, more than ever we need leaders who will be unwavering and unapologetic in their support of abortion rights,” Cotham wrote in the May 3, 2022 tweet. “I’ll fight to codify Roe in the [North Carolina General Assembly] and continue my strong record of defending the right to choose.”

Charlotte for Choice, a local nonprofit abortion advocacy organization, held a rally in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center to protest the bill hours before it passed through the House on Wednesday evening. More than 50 people gathered in solidarity.

“This bill might be called the ‘Care for Women, Children and Families Act,’ but these trap laws are not going to do anything but force people into unwarranted and unconscionable situations that will have radically detrimental consequences,” Calla Hales, owner of A Preferred Women’s Health Center (APWHC) in east Charlotte, told those in attendance. 

Hales acknowledged that at least some parts if not all of the bill would become law. 

Learn more: Calla Hales Discusses Abortion Rights in Charlotte on ‘Nooze Hounds’

Attendees at Wednesday’s rally included a Presbyterian Pastor; clinic escorts; an adoptee; a county commissioner; educators; people who’ve experienced abortions; and two original members of the Jane Collective, an underground abortion network that operated from 1969-’73, all of whom gathered to share stories and incite action in the Charlotte community on Wednesday. 

Speakers condemned the expedited and secretive nature of the GOP members behind the bill. The 46-page bill was introduced late on Tuesday night and given an abbreviated schedule for discussion. It’s expected to pass less than 48 hours after its introduction. 

“It’s a craven display of how broken our state’s legislation is,” Hales said. “Where one political party has hijacked a system through gerrymandering, voter suppression and self-victimization.”

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell emphasized that the decision to ban abortion doesn’t represent the majority of North Carolinians’ sentiment.

“Regardless of gender, regardless of race, this affects all of us and everyone needs to be out here because it’s important that we stand in solidarity and prove … that abortion is health care,” one clinic escort told Queen City Nerve.

Banning abortion after 12 weeks in North Carolina not only affects locals but those that come here because of the oppressive laws in their own states, she pointed out.

SB 20 also includes new requirements that hinder access to abortion, including a requirement that the patient make an in-person visit to a doctor to discuss the decision within 72 hours of the operation, as well as adding licensing requirements for health care clinics that offer abortion services. 

Despite the troubling reality of the situation, Hales encouraged the community to keep fighting.

“This feeling we feel, this desperation … is what patients across the country have been feeling for months, for years, for decades,” she said. “And yet they’ve always found a way. So, in their honor, so are we.”

*UPDATE: Senate Bill passed through the North Carolina Senate on Thursday afternoon in a 29-20 vote. The bill will now head to Gov. Cooper’s desk.

In a statement sent out following the Senate vote, Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, wrote, ““Extreme anti-abortion politicians have passed a sweeping, monster abortion ban in 48 hours without any regard to the democratic process or our fundamental human rights, and we are outraged. The little debate that we’ve had on this bill has made clear that lawmakers don’t even know what’s in their own legislation. Even so, they rammed through this omnibus ban with complete disregard for the countless people it will harm.

“We know abortion bans lead to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality and substandard health care. North Carolinians deserve better. This fight is just getting started, and the people of North Carolina need to rise up: We must not allow politicians in Raleigh to take away our right to control what happens to our bodies, our families, and our futures. We must make sure Governor Cooper’s veto stands and prevent this dangerous ban from ever seeing the light of day.”

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