After North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order protecting women’s access to reproductive healthcare in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Democrat state legislators breathed a temporary sigh of relief.
But their optimism was tempered over the potential implications of unfavorable midterm election results this November.
With Republicans three seats away in the House and two seats away in the Senate from being able to override Gov. Cooper’s vetoes against abortion restrictions, the future of abortion in the state depends on November’s elections. Thus, Democrat legislators have attempted to codify Roe v. Wade to ensure access to abortion through two bills: Senate Bill 888 and and House Bill 1119.
While both appear unlikely to pass, Democrat legislators hope producing these bills will show voters where they stand on reproductive rights.
SB 888, also known as Codify Roe and Casey Protections, hopes to prohibit arbitrary restrictions or outright bans on abortions. HB 1119, the Reproductive Freedom Act, hopes to guarantee legal access to abortion and remove barriers such as bans on abortion insurance coverage. Both were introduced on May 26, prior to Roe v. Wade’s overturning on June 24.
The two bills have been referred to the legislative rules committee, which is usually “just the kind of place where bills go to die,” said Rep. Julie von Haefen, a Democrat who co-sponsored HB 1119.
Since Republicans make up the majority of the state House and Senate, Democrats do not have sufficient numbers to decide which bills should be pulled out of the rules committee and ultimately heard on the floor.
Rep. Marcia Morey, a Democrat, was not surprised that there were no hearings for these two bills, but she said the Democrat legislators put the bills out because they feel strongly that women should have protections to reproductive healthcare.
“I still think it's super important to keep filing these types of bills, because we have to show people that this is what healthcare in North Carolina could look like if we were in charge,” she said.
Republican legislators have indicated a collective intent to impose sweeping restrictions on reproductive healthcare for women in North Carolina. Already, the Republican leaders of the House and Senate have urged the state attorney general to impose a pre-viability prohibition on abortion services. This would ban abortions after 20 weeks, unless the pregnancy was determined to be at risk of becoming life-threatening or severely impairing the mother’s health.
“One of the reasons we [introduced SB 888] was to signal to…everyone from constituents to voters, to people that impact [them] at the national level––to say, ‘Invest in North Carolina, because you have 22 senators that will uphold vetoes against Governor Cooper’s [attempts to protect abortion],’” said Sen. Natalie Murdock, a co-sponsor of the bill.
Republican NC Speaker of the House Tim Moore and Senate President pro-tempore Phil Berger did not respond to The Chronicle’s requests for comment on SB 888 and HB 1119.
Apart from introducing SB 888, Murdock is focusing on informing women of the healthcare resources at their disposal, such as abortionfinder.org and the Carolina Abortion Fund. This is at the forefront of her agenda, since only 14 abortion clinics currently exist across the state of North Carolina, most of which are confined to urban areas
The prevalence of state-funded fraudulent ‘pregnancy crisis centers’ that disseminate false information also pose a barrier to women’s access to abortion services in North Carolina, according to Murdock.
Murdock hopes to combat the criminalization of women who have already obtained abortions in the future.
“Folks could simply have a miscarriage and be seeking medical care and also be reported as having an abortion when they have just had a miscarriage, in addition to folks who medically need it,” she said.
In terms of the next steps necessary to codify access to abortion services into state law, Morey highlighted the role of voters in the November elections, as well as future elections.
“Voters need to choose,” she said. “Are they on the side of women and women's privacy and women's choice, or are they on the side of … more restrictive provisions that discriminate against women that are harmful and violate all privacy of health care decisions?”
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Halle Friedman is a Trinity junior and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.