Politics & Government

NC Democrat sides with Republicans trying to override Cooper veto of abortion bill

NC Sen. Don Davis (D-Pitt County)
NC Sen. Don Davis (D-Pitt County) North Carolina General Assembly

North Carolina senators voted to overturn Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a controversial abortion bill on Tuesday.

Republicans recently lost their veto-proof supermajorities in the General Assembly, and in the Senate they needed at least one Democrat to side with them and against Cooper. Two Democrats originally voted for the bill, and on Tuesday one of them continued his support, providing the final Senate vote necessary for the veto override.

The Senate wasn’t the only obstacle for the bill to become law, however. The N.C. House of Representatives must also vote to override Cooper’s veto if lawmakers want to pass the bill into law over the governor’s objection.

The bill creates criminal and civil penalties that are aimed at punishing doctors who kill a newborn baby that has previously survived an abortion attempt. Democrats say there’s no proof that has ever happened in North Carolina, and that the bill is both unnecessary and misleading.

“We don’t need to create this law because it feeds a false narrative, of these incidents occurring,” Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat, said Tuesday in a speech in the Senate debate.

But Republicans say they believe there is a loophole in state law that would allow doctors to get away with killing newborn babies through purposeful negligence, since doctors don’t currently have a legal duty to care for newborn babies.

“This bill is nothing except requiring care for a newborn child, separate from its mother, born alive,” Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Forsyth County Republican who sponsored the bill, in the Senate debate Tuesday.

And while Democrats accused Republicans of using the bill for cynical political purposes, Republicans said the same of Democrats.

“It’s a sad day when we have to come back here because we have a governor who decided making a political statement was more important than protecting living newborn babies,” Krawiec said.

In his original veto message, Cooper wrote that babies are already protected by existing laws and called the bill “an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients.”

“This needless legislation would criminalize doctors and other healthcare providers for a practice that simply does not exist,” he said.

The bill originally passed the Senate 28-19, with several Republicans absent that day. All but two Democrats voted no originally — Sen. Ben Clark of Hoke County and Sen. Don Davis of Pitt County. But on Tuesday, all the Republicans were present for the vote. And even though Clark switched on Tuesday to side with Cooper, Davis provided the final vote that Republicans needed to override the veto.

Unlike regular votes, which require only a simple majority, veto overrides require a 60 percent supermajority. The veto override Tuesday passed 30-20.

The Republican-led legislature had conservative supermajorities in both of Cooper’s first two years as governor and overturned most of his vetoes during that time. But Democrats flipped enough seats in the 2018 elections to take away the Republican supermajorities in both chambers.

Planned Parenthood and NARAL chapters in North Carolina rallied outside the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh in 2015, to pressure Gov. Pat McCrory not to sign a bill that would require a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion could be performed.

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