North Carolina: A Purple-State Model for a Pro-life America - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
North Carolina: A Purple-State Model for a Pro-life America
North Carolina capitol building (Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

It’s hard to say whether we’re winning or losing when it comes to the pro-life cause. In the year since the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, some states have instituted total abortion bans. Others have eliminated all restrictions, advertising themselves as “abortion sanctuaries” where children are torn apart under the pretext of “medical care.”  

In some sense, today’s abortion debate is playing out exactly as it should, given our nation’s constitutional commitment to federalism: State governments should be able to pass laws that reflect the will of the people, and the inevitable variety in these laws serves as a laboratory for democracy. 

But what happens when lives are at stake during the incubation period for a particular American experiment? This is the broader question that lies in the background of our politics today, and the coming years will test whether our nation can reconcile the division between the culture of life and the culture of death through normal political means. 

For now, however, the states serve as barometers for the pro-life movement, offering a window into what works — and doesn’t work — with regard to varied abortion bans. It’s far too soon to say whether this week’s vote in North Carolina on a 12-week abortion limit will deliver a permanent pro-life victory in the purple state, but the dynamics at play in the state will certainly make it an interesting case study for future elections. 

North Carolina Overrides Governor’s Veto of Abortion Limit

The North Carolina General Assembly voted to overrule Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a 12-week abortion ban on Tuesday. Republicans hold supermajorities in both branches of the General Assembly, and both the House and the Senate voted along party lines to override the governor’s veto, splitting 72–48 in the former and 30–20 in the latter.

The veto-proof Republican majority in the House came about last month, when former Democrat Rep. Tricia Cotham switched parties after facing pressure to vote with the Democratic caucus. “I will not be controlled by anyone,” she said. “[The] modern-day Democratic party has become unrecognizable to me and others across the state.”

Senate Bill 20 (SB 20) restricts abortions to 12 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities and requires that women visit a doctor in person at least three days before having an abortion. The law will take effect July 1.

Prior to this week’s vote, Cooper traveled throughout the state in an attempt to sway Republicans who had previously spoken about preserving abortion access in the state — but to no avail.

Purple-State Abortion Legislation

The South has been largely unafraid to ban abortion at the state level. Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama have abortion bans without exception, and Mississippi bans abortion except in case of rape. Earlier this year, Florida passed a six-week abortion ban, and the six-week limit is also currently enforced in Georgia, though the state’s ban is being litigated. (RELATED: Late-Term Abortionist Featured in Atlantic Describes His Nightmares and Haunting Visions)

The majority of these states are fully red — Republicans run the House, sit in the Senate, and occupy the governor’s mansion. Though a Democrat, Louisiana’s Gov. John Bel Edwards is unabashedly pro-life. But with a Republican-controlled General Assembly and a Democratic governor, North Carolina looks more like Kentucky, where the legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a 15-week abortion ban in April of last year.

Republicans in North Carolina only put forth legislation to restrict abortion after much discussion. According to Democratic Sen. Sydney Batch, Republicans struggled to build a unified coalition, as some representatives feared that taking a stand on abortion could cost them their seats in the next election. 

According to Republican Sen. Vickie Sawyer, Republicans, independents, and moderate Democrats alike view the 12-week ban as “compromise legislation.”

“This bill is mainstream and a commonsense approach to a very difficult topic,” Sawyer said.  

Seeking Consensus and Helping Mothers

In recent months, prominent pro-life leaders have called for incremental political action in defense of life. Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, outlined this view in the Wall Street Journal last month. Anderson wrote

The GOP … can’t win if it continues to let Democrats define the terms of the debate. While it’s true that public opinion in America isn’t as protective of children in the womb as it should be, Americans are dramatically more pro-life than the Democratic Party. 

In addition to calling for Republicans to stand up and own the pro-life position, Anderson pointed out that the restrictions on abortion have been accompanied by other pro-life legislation in several states. He explained that Florida’s six-week limit passed alongside massive investments in the culture of life, including “$25 million in additional annual funding for the Florida Pregnancy Care Network” and a “fatherhood initiative,” alongside other programs designed to support women. This kind of legislation dovetails with abortion bans to preventatively address various reasons that women seek abortion. 

“The ban gives me hope,” a staff member of a pregnancy resource center in Massachusetts, who asked to remain anonymous, told The American Spectator. She continued:

I hope all North Carolinians rally behind the pregnancy resource centers that have been providing pregnant women with social services and sustained support for decades, so that women who would have chosen abortion after 12 weeks find the community support they need and deserve as moms.

Incremental legislation — like moving from a 20-week to a 12-week ban — isn’t perfect, but with lives on the line, we can’t afford to let perfect be the enemy of good. And since the law is a teacher, North Carolina’s new policy will shed light on the dynamics at play in state-level abortion policy. Only time — and coming election cycles — will tell whether life has won in the Tar Heel state.  

Mary Frances Myler is a postgraduate fellow with the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government

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