RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed an executive order Wednesday aimed at protecting access to abortion as other states have moved quickly to implement restrictions in light of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
The laws in North Carolina have not changed since that decision, as Republicans in the General Assembly wait until after this year’s election to address the issue.
Cooper’s order calls on Cabinet agencies to coordinate healthcare services in North Carolina and blocks them from cooperating with investigations launched in other states into people seeking or providing abortion services that are legal in North Carolina.
Those agencies also cannot require a pregnant state employee to travel to another state that has restrictions on abortion that don’t include an exception for their health.
Additionally, it calls on police to enforce existing state law prohibiting people from blocking access to a healthcare facility.
“This order will help protect North Carolina doctors and nurses and their patients from cruel, right-wing criminal laws passed by other states,” said Cooper.
Several women running in the most competitive districts in the state legislature joined Cooper as he signed the order Wednesday. Cooper noted that Republicans would need to flip three seats in the state House of Representatives and two seats in the state Senate to regain a supermajority that would allow them to easily override his vetoes.
“The consequences for this November’s election have never been more serious,” he said. “Too often we’ve expected the worst from this legislature and too often they’ve delivered. We must be ready for the worst.”
Republican legislative leaders did not take any action on abortion access while they were still in session, saying it will be a top priority next year. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) has declined to say specifically what changes Republicans would pursue.
“I want to see us deal with it in a comprehensive way and do so in a reasonable manner. You know, the problem with that issue, like so many issues is it’s people yelling at each other,” he said recently.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, also joined Cooper Wednesday. Her group along with other abortion rights groups have pledged to spend $150 million on this year’s elections in light of the Supreme Court’s action.
“I can’t believe it’s just been 12 days. In those 12 days, politicians in 11 states have banned access to abortion,” she said.
Dr. Katherine Farris, of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said that about one-third of the patients who’ve scheduled visits this week are from other states. She expects that number to rise in the weeks ahead as neighboring states further restrict abortion access.
“Since the decision, confusion, dismay and fear have been constant refrains my patients,” she said.
Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, called Cooper’s order an “election-year stunt,” noting the laws in North Carolina have not changed.
“North Carolina has the opportunity to protect unborn babies and their mothers from the desolation of abortion. Life is a human right, and the voters in North Carolina will have the opportunity to speak on this issue without the oppressive executive actions of Governor Cooper,” she said.