RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Ahead of a vote expected this week on a bill to codify the Roe v. Wade decision into federal law, North Carolina Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross called the potential Supreme Court action “needless and careless.”
Democrats in the Senate said they planned to move forward this week with a vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act while acknowledging it’s unlikely to pass, as they lack the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
“When it comes to fundamental rights, I don’t believe the filibuster is an appropriate way to deal with legislating. We need to protect people’s rights,” said Ross, who supported the legislation when it passed the House last year. “We need to make sure that the will of the people controls and not some archaic way of blocking things.”
Last Monday, Politico reported on a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a constitutional right to abortion.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) released a statement about the vote, saying, “Democrats are pushing radical legislation that would allow abortion up until the moment of birth, a policy that the vast majority of North Carolinians, including myself, are fundamentally opposed to. That is why I will be voting against this legislation when it comes to the Senate floor.”
Rep. Ross said, “And, while I’m not naïve to the challenges we face with this vote, every senator should have to go on the record.”
She spoke at a press conference Monday with state Democrats and leaders of local churches.
“I can’t think of anything more sinful, more spiritually and morally bankrupt, than holding women’s bodies hostage,” said Rev. Nancy Petty, of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church. “When we take away a woman’s God-given right to make decisions about her own body and reproductive rights, we condemn her.”
Ross said the issue could motivate women, especially, to turn out in this year’s midterm elections to a degree they might not have otherwise.
“I think that this issue will energize women in the same way that the election of Donald Trump energized women to take to the streets,” she said.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, called the vote “political theater.”
She said, “It also has the intention of influencing the court by inciting outrage about a decision that hasn’t even really been issued yet.”
The Supreme Court’s decision could reshape the political landscape as voters will decide not only which party controls Congress but also the state General Assembly.
Republicans hold a majority, but Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed bills to curtail abortion rights.
If the GOP regains the supermajority they held for the first two years Cooper was in office, it would be much easier for them to override his veto and potentially implement new restrictions on abortion. Republicans would need to flip three Democratic-held seats in the House and two in the Senate to attain a veto-proof supermajority.
“We think it’s very important this year that pro-life voters realize what’s at stake,” said Fitzgerald. “If the issue is returned back to the states by the Supreme Court, then it’s really going to be important for our voters to get out and vote for pro-life people.”
North Carolina Democrats are aiming to hold on to enough seats to be able to sustain Cooper’s vetoes.
“They will not have a supermajority. I think that it will always be safe and legal in North Carolina,” said Rep. Rosa Gill (D-Wake County).
Judicial races also will be critical in this year’s election. Democrats hold a 4-3 majority on the state Supreme Court, and two Democratic-held seats are on the ballot this year. In 2020, Republicans won all three seats that were on the ballot that year.
Fitzgerald said those races this year will be a key focus.
“What we need are judges who are truly committed to the rule of law, to interpreting the text of the constitution and the words in the constitution, according to its original meaning instead of according to an outcome that they want,” she said.