Here are the 2 ways Republicans could change North Carolina abortion laws

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Roe v. Wade

Here's how the Supreme Court decision affects health care, politics, and more in Charlotte and North Carolina.

Abortion remains legal in North Carolina despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Friday to overturn Roe vs. Wade, but there are ways that could change.

In every scenario, the outcome depends on the will of Republican legislators in Raleigh. While many in the GOP say they support eliminating or severely curtailing access to abortion, their ability to do anything about it has been limited.

That political equation changed Friday.

The Supreme Court decision gives state legislatures broad authority to rule on abortion how they see fit. Because of its current composition, North Carolina government appears to protect abortion rights.

Volunteers with the Triangle Abortion Access Coalition, wave to cars passing under the American Tobacco Trail Bridge over I-40 in Durham, N.C. on June 24, 2022 the afternoon that the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was handed down. The volunteers are occupying the bridge throughout the day. “We’re sharing the knowledge and news that abortion is still legal in this state. And we will fight to keep it legal,” one advocate said.
Volunteers with the Triangle Abortion Access Coalition, wave to cars passing under the American Tobacco Trail Bridge over I-40 in Durham, N.C. on June 24, 2022 the afternoon that the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was handed down. The volunteers are occupying the bridge throughout the day. “We’re sharing the knowledge and news that abortion is still legal in this state. And we will fight to keep it legal,” one advocate said.

Governor can veto bills from NC General Assembly

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, can veto anti-abortion bills that come to his desk. Overriding his veto requires the votes of three-fifths of the members in each chamber. In the state House, it takes 72 of the 120 members; in the state Senate, it requires 30 of the 50 members.

Republicans currently hold 69 seats in the House and 28 seats in the Senate.

“While abortion remains legal in North Carolina, our access here is hanging by a thread, and it all depends on the outcome of the November elections,” Jillian Riley, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in North Carolina, said in a news release. “Reproductive freedom is on the ballot for North Carolinians, and who we elect to the General Assembly will determine the future of abortion access for generations.”

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Two ways for abortion rights to change

Those are tight margins, and they reveal two ways for North Carolina Republicans to eliminate or curtail abortion rights.

First, they could win the governorship. An anti-abortion, Republican governor could sign any bill that the General Assembly passes. Without a Democrat in the governor’s mansion, there’s little Democrats could do to prevent any legislation from becoming law.

In 2021, for example, a bill that would have required doctors to try and save the life of children who survived botched abortions — called the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act — passed the legislature but had little hope of becoming law because of Cooper’s veto power. Cooper said laws already protect newborn babies and the bill was unnecessary.

Second, the GOP could win a veto-proof majority in both chambers. The party is just a few seats away from that at present. The Republicans last held a veto-proof majority in both chambers in 2018.

N.C. House and Senate seats are up for election in November. The election to replace Cooper is in 2024 — he is not able to run for reelection.

It won’t just be the 2022 or 2024 elections. With Friday’s Supreme Court decision, abortion could be on the ballot every two years for the foreseeable future.

“It’s really impossible to predict the seismic impact this decision is going to have on the election,” Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic told The Charlotte Observer in May.

The crowd responds to a speaker during a Mothers Day rally for reproductive freedom at Freedom Park on Sunday, May 8, 2022 in Charlotte, NC.
The crowd responds to a speaker during a Mothers Day rally for reproductive freedom at Freedom Park on Sunday, May 8, 2022 in Charlotte, NC.

State legislature action in 2022?

Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement Friday the Supreme Court decision was “long overdue and a major win for protecting life! The end of Roe v. Wade rightfully returns authority back to the states to determine abortion law.”

He added that the House won’t pursue abortion laws during the legislature’s short session.

“However, North Carolinians can rest assured that we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that current restrictions on the books will be enforced,” Moore said. “North Carolinians can also expect pro-life protections to be a top priority of the legislature when we return to our normal legislative session in January.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson called on the state to restrict abortion rights.

“With the Supreme Court’s decision to return authority over this issue to the states, it will now be our duty to carefully craft legislation that will safeguard the life and health of all our citizens, born and unborn,” Robinson said in a news release.