North Carolina was the last state south of Virginia and east of New Mexico that had not implemented or passed new abortion restrictions since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June.
The votes also come as a significant blow to Cooper, who spent the last week traveling across the state, including to the districts of a handful of moderate Republican lawmakers, hoping to persuade at least one to oppose the override.
Cooper, in a statement shortly after the votes, said those lawmakers “broke their promises to protect women’s reproductive freedom.”
“Strong majorities of North Carolinians don’t want right-wing politicians in the exam room with women and their doctors,” Cooper said. “For the last two weeks, Republican sponsors of this abortion ban have strenuously argued that it is much less restrictive than we warned, so we will now do everything in our power to make sure that’s true.”
North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers had been working behind the scenes for months to reach a compromise on new abortion restrictions, wary of how a bitter, public debate split GOP lawmakers in South Carolina. Still, Democrats cried foul when Republican lawmakers quickly introduced and passed the legislation earlier this month.
According to the CDC, 93 percent of abortions are performed during the first trimester, meaning the procedure will remain accessible in most circumstances when the new law takes effect on July 1. The bill also contains exceptions for rape and incest, fatal fetal abnormalities and to save the life of the pregnant person.
“In 1992, Democratic presidential candidate William Jefferson Clinton said that abortion should be safe, legal, rare. That’s what this bill does,” said North Carolina state Sen. Amy Galey, a Republican.
But the new law includes other restrictions such as requiring a patient to attend an in-person doctor’s visit at least 72 hours before receiving an abortion, which abortion-rights advocates argue will make it more difficult not only for North Carolinians but for people across the South to terminate their pregnancies.
Nearly 5,000 more abortions were performed in North Carolina in the six months after Roe v. Wade was overturned as people in states where the procedure was newly banned flocked to the state, according to WeCount, an abortion tracking project sponsored by the Society of Family Planning.
SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement praised the North Carolina legislature, holding up the body as a model for Republicans across the country.
“Elected officials and candidates across this country should take note how pro-life leaders stood up to the extreme abortion agenda of the Democrats to protect life and serve mothers,” Dannenfelser said.
Abortion rights advocates, meanwhile, promised to hold Republicans lawmakers accountable for the legislation at the ballot box and redouble their efforts to ensure a Democrat replaces Cooper, who is term limited, in 2024.
“The anti-abortion supermajority in the North Carolina legislature just trampled over every chance they had to listen to the public — their constituents — all to enact a cruel ban on abortion,” said Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Now the work begins to give North Carolinians a legislature that will protect their freedoms.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that the override votes were “out of touch” with popular sentiment in North Carolina and that the new law would make it harder for patients to access reproductive health care.
“In the more than a dozen states with bans, women have been turned away from emergency rooms, left with no choice but to travel hundreds of miles for the care they need, and faced complications that put their lives and health at risk,” Jean-Pierre said. “Like those laws, the North Carolina ban will harm patients and threaten doctors for providing essential care.”
GOP legislatures in South Carolina and Nebraska on Tuesday also debated new abortion restrictions. Lawmakers in the South Carolina House heard hours of debate on a thousand amendments introduced by Democrats to a bill that would ban abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, while Nebraska lawmakers weighed whether to add a 12-week abortion ban to a separate bill banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth.