RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) – The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Friday’s outcome is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
The decision, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.
But what does it mean for North Carolina?
Currently, abortions are legal in the state.
North Carolina has had a law banning abortions after 20 weeks (with limited exceptions) that’s been on the books for decades, but courts have put it on hold, ruling that it was unconstitutional. Republican state legislative leaders on Friday called on Atty. Gen. Josh Stein (D) to take action to see that the law is reinstated in North Carolina.
“With the legal underpinning of the Bryant court’s injunction now erased, we respectfully call on you and the Department of Justice to take all necessary legal action to lift the injunction currently barring the full enforcement of our State’s abortion restrictions,” the legislative leaders wrote in a letter.
Earlier in the day, Stein said in a statement, “I have a message for the women of North Carolina: you still have a legal right to an abortion in our state. North Carolina state law protects women’s reproductive freedoms, even after the Supreme Court today stripped women of their right to an abortion under the Constitution by overturning Roe v. Wade. If we want to keep our freedoms under state law, then we have to elect state officials who commit to protecting them.”
Friday’s decision also gives state lawmakers substantial power to pursue new restrictions on abortion. They have not said specifically what that legislation would look like but plan to pass bills next year.
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) acknowledged that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) would veto any bills restricting abortions, and Republicans do not have the votes to override him.
However, Republicans also said they’re optimistic that in this year’s election, they’ll win enough races to regain their supermajority. They would have to gain three seats in the state House of Representatives and two in the state Senate to achieve a veto-proof supermajority.
“It’s bad law. It’s been bad law for 50 years. I’m excited to finally see this day,” Speaker Moore said. “North Carolinians should fully expect that when we’re in session next year, that we deal with this and that we enhance those protections for the unborn.”
When asked if legislators would pursue a ban on abortion, he said, “So, we’re obviously going to look at legislation to protect the unborn. There are all sorts of issues to be debated. At what point should you put that in? After how many weeks? There are questions about are there exceptions that should be made? So, all of those will have to be debated and discussed and produced from this building when we come back into session.”
CBS 17 followed up and asked if he believes there are circumstances where abortion should be legal, he said, “I believe certainly the life of the mother should be there. And, I also support exceptions for rape and incest.”
In a concurring opinion Friday, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the court “should reconsider” previous rulings including ones establishing a right to access to contraception and the right to same-sex marriage.
Speaker Moore said about that, “I think we should deal with what the court has dealt with, which is on Roe v. Wade and on abortion laws. Abortion laws should be determined by the states. And, I am confident and prepared to deal with that. I don’t think we need to get into other issues. Look, that’s a decision that’s been in the law for 50 years and all the precedent that’s happened as a result of it. I think our plate’s full right now.”
Rep. Julie von Haefen, who has pushed for the state to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law, called Friday’s decision “devastating and upsetting.”
“The right to abortion and the right to healthcare is really on the ballot this November. I hope that even though this decision is devastating, I hope that it will motivate people to come out and vote,” von Haefen said. “We are at such a razor’s edge here in North Carolina. We know if we lose any seats in the House or the Senate, we will lose that ability to uphold vetoes. And, I think everyone needs to understand that.”
Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, spoke Friday about the decision surrounded by supporters in Raleigh.
She called on the Senate to pass a law codifying the protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law and has previously called on the Senate to eliminate the filibuster, that requires 60 votes for legislation to advance.
“This court’s decision opens the floodgates for states to not only restrict and ban abortions but to put women’s lives at risk and to put women and doctors in jail for it,” Beasley said. “We’re facing a watershed moment for our constitutional rights and we must understand the magnitude of this moment and we must feel a sense of urgency around it.”
When asked if in light of Friday’s decision she believes Democrats should seek to add seats to the U.S. Supreme Court, she didn’t directly answer the question. A spokesperson later followed up to say that she does not support that move.
Her Republican opponent in the Senate race, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, cheered Friday’s decision as a “historic victory.”
“The Court’s ruling correctly empowers the people’s representatives in each state to decide how best to protect unborn lives. As a conscience-driven pro-life advocate, I will continue to support protections for unborn children everywhere,” he said.
In an interview earlier this year, CBS17’s Russ Bowen asked Budd about his position on abortion.
“When a person finds themselves in that type of situation, let’s just admit up front regardless of what your political background is or what party you’re with, that it’s a tragedy,” he said. “And I want to say, why would you want to add a second tragedy to an already very tough situation?”
When Bowen asked him if he would support access to abortion in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, Budd said, “You need to look at it as a tragedy. And, let’s engage this person. Let’s talk with them. But, let’s also realize there’s a second life there. And, you look at it through those lenses. And, why would you want to take a second life for something that’s already been harmed?”
Bowen followed up further asking about situations where the mother could die. Budd responded, “I think that’s something that you have to look at. It has to be a discussion with your doctor. But, let’s make sure we don’t add more tragedy to an already tough situation.”