By Julia Harte
(Reuters) -North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper on Saturday vetoed a bill that would ban most abortions after 12 weeks, a move the Republican supermajority in the state legislature is expected to quickly override, allowing the bill to become law.
The measure would cut the window for most abortions in the state back from 20 weeks and curtail access to the procedure for millions of women across the U.S. south.
At a rally in Raleigh, the state capital, Cooper signed paperwork to veto the bill as a crowd chanted "veto."
"This bill has nothing to do with making women safer and everything to do with banning abortion," Cooper said, calling on Republicans to reconsider their stance.
"If just one Republican finds the courage, if just one Republican listens to doctors, if just one Republican is unafraid to stand up to the political bosses, if just one Republican keeps that promise made to the people, then we can stop this ban," he added.
Republicans have a supermajority in both legislative chambers. Cooper has spent the week traveling across the state to raise awareness about impacts of the bill, urging Republican lawmakers to allow his veto to stand.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the anti-abortion group North Carolina Values Coalition, criticized Cooper for vetoing the bill and for holding his rally the day before Mother's Day.
"His actions would crush provisions to give women more opportunities to choose life, improve safety standards of clinics, and stop the barbaric painful practice of partial birth abortion," she said in a statement, adding Cooper’s attempts to convince Republican lawmakers to sustain his veto were "a fool’s errand."
The bill whizzed through the legislature in fewer than 48 hours in early May, drawing criticism from Democrats and abortion rights supporters who urged a period of lengthier analysis and debate typical for such legislation.
The measure would ban elective abortions after the first trimester, except in cases of rape, incest, life-limiting fetal anomalies and medical emergencies.
It would also require doctors to be present when abortion medication is given and those seeking medical abortions to have an in-person consultation with a doctor 72 hours before the procedure. That would make it more difficult for out-of-state abortion seekers to obtain the service in North Carolina.
Republican lawmakers called the bill "common-sense legislation" that represented a compromise that stopped short of the more restrictive bans opposed by a majority of U.S. voters. Democratic opponents called it "devastatingly cruel," and said it would force women into seeking illegal abortions.
The bill includes funding for foster and child care as well as paid parental leave.
Near-total abortion bans have taken effect in 14 states since the U.S. Supreme Court revoked federal abortion rights in June 2022, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights advocacy research group.
Abortions in North Carolina rose by 37%, more than any other state, in the first two months after the ruling, according to a study by the Society of Family Planning, a nonprofit that promotes abortion rights and research.
(Reporting by Julia HarteEditing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio)