Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed a bill to ban abortions based on an unborn child’s race or the presence of Down syndrome. It’s his second veto in a week and third overall this year.
“This bill gives the government control over what happens and what is said in the exam room between a woman and her doctor at a time she faces one of the most difficult decisions of her life,” Cooper said in a prepared statement tied to the veto. “This bill is unconstitutional and it damages the doctor-patient relationship with an unprecedented government intrusion.”
The veto prompted an immediate response from Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance. “With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Cooper just told North Carolinians that it’s OK to discriminate based on race or disability as long as it’s in the womb,” Galey said. “This bill simply put an end to eugenics. It shouldn’t be controversial to protect an unborn child with Down syndrome, but Gov. Cooper proves once again that he’s unwilling to stand up for North Carolinians when his left-wing donors demand his loyalty.”
House Bill 453 cleared the General Assembly with a 67-42 vote in the House and a 27-20 vote in the Senate. To override Cooper’s veto, both chambers would need “yes” votes from three-fifths of the members present and voting. That means a united Republican caucus would need at least three House Democrats and two Democratic senators to support the measure if every legislator votes on the veto override.
Six Democrats supported H.B. 453 in the House. No Democratic senators voted for the measure, but two Democrats were absent during the initial vote. One of them, Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, voted with Republicans in 2019 to override a Cooper veto on a different abortion-related bill.
Cooper has vetoed 56 bills since taking office in 2017. Lawmakers have voted to override 23 of those vetoes. They have not been able to secure votes for an override since December 2018.
There’s no word yet on whether lawmakers will attempt to override the veto of either H.B. 453 or Senate Bill 43, a measure that would have permitted guns in churches that also function as schools.
H.B. 453 passed the House in May and passed the Senate June 10. Jaden Ng, a teen with Down Syndrome, and her family were recognized in the Senate gallery before the vote.
“I know that in my heart that I am God’s child and I love my life,” Jaden told the House Judiciary Committee in April.
The bill expanded an existing law that requires abortion doctors to sign off that the woman is not seeking an abortion based on the baby’s gender, and would have broadened the law to include banning motives of race or Down syndrome as reasons for the procedure.
“People are protected from discrimination in education, in the workplace, in housing, and yet babies with these same characteristics can be aborted simply because of their race or disability,” said Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Davie, on the Senate floor during the debate. “This is eugenics in its worst form, and this bill will eliminate that atrocity.”
However, the anti-discrimination argument for the bill did not seem to draw Cooper or his fellow Democrats to support it.
“To label a person’s decision to obtain an abortion as ‘eugenics,’ as this bill does, is offensive, irresponsible, and warps the painful legacy of the eugenics movement in North Carolina and disrespects the trauma endured by real victims of forced sterilization,” Sen. Natalie Murdock, D-Durham, said in opposition to the bill.
Across the country, six states have laws prohibiting abortions motivated by the race of the baby, and nine states ban abortions motivated by the likelihood of disability. Sixteen states, including North Carolina, prohibit abortion motivated by the gender of the baby. The bill required doctors to attest in writing the patient’s motivation is not based on race, gender, or possible disability, and required providers to collect some data on the procedure.
Sen. Sarah Crawford, D-Franklin, spoke against the bill and said the legislative focus should instead be on providing services to families with disabled children.
“If we want to get serious about walking with women through their journey of a prenatal diagnosis, the prescription is not to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body,” said Crawford. “The prescription is funding for services, information for families, and comfort for families in knowing that their child will have access to education, therapies and the medical support they need.”
“There are, as we all know, 15,000 people in North Carolina that qualify for services like these, but they sit waiting for years,” she continued.
Krawiec responded to Crawford directly on the Senate floor, challenging her to help get such funding for services passed in the Senate’s state budget after it was lost in Cooper’s budget veto last year.
The care waivers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are funded in the Senate’s state budget proposal again this year.
“Senator Crawford, I hope I can count on your support to make sure those waivers go into effect so we can reduce that waitlist for these children and for other children,” said Krawiec.
House Speaker Tim Moore also released a statement after Cooper’s veto.
“Gender, race, and disability are protected classes in most other contexts,” Moore wrote. “Why should we allow the unborn to be discriminated against for these same traits? The message sent by this veto is that some human life is more valuable than others based on immutable characteristics.”