RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, as a leaked draft decision indicates could happen, it would have implications for abortion access in North Carolina and across the country.
While the decision obtained by Politico is only a draft and not finalized, it would give states the ability to ban abortion, though North Carolina is not one of the states where that would happen quickly.
The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion laws nationally and is “committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights,” does not include North Carolina among the 26 states they anticipate are certain or likely to ban abortion. North Carolina is also not one of 13 states that has a so-called trigger law that would take effect automatically if Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
North Carolina has had a law on the books since 1973 banning abortions after 20 weeks with limited exceptions. However, that law has been on hold. Just last year, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision that deemed it unconstitutional. If Roe v. Wade is overturned that could lead to that law going into effect, legal scholars say.
“It is not the final word yet. And, abortion is still safe and legal in North Carolina,” said Jillian Riley, North Carolina public affairs director for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “We will fight like hell to keep abortion access safe and legal in North Carolina.”
Riley said she expects to see an increase in people coming to
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition said she’s hopeful the final decision will be a “pro-life opinion.”
“We’re going to work as hard as we can to reach consensus on the most pro-life legislation that we can get,” she said. “We’re unsure how long it will take. But, we’re prepared to go the distance to make sure that we can protect unborn babies and their mothers.”
Neil Siegel, who is a professor at Duke University’s School of Law and clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, called the leak of the draft “egregious” and the draft itself “breathtaking.”
“In one fell swoop wiping away 49 years of constitutional law,” he said. “If this is actually what is handed down and has the support of five justices of the court, it is the end of federally protected constitutional rights in the country.”
He added it would make abortion one of the top issues in this year’s election.
“In North Carolina, the legislature would be at liberty to impose whatever restrictions on access to abortion that it wanted as far as the U.S. Constitution is concerned,” he said.
This year the entire General Assembly is up for re-election. Republicans control the state legislature, but Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has vetoed bills aimed at restricting abortion access.
Following the report of the draft, he tweeted, “Now more than ever, governors and state legislatures must stand up for women’s healthcare. We know the stakes and must stand firm to protect a woman’s choice and access to medical care.”
Republicans are seeking to regain their supermajority in the legislature, which would make it much easier for them to override Cooper’s vetoes.
Republican Senate leader Phil Berger did not comment on the draft decision Tuesday.
Demi Dowdy, a spokesperson for Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said it would be “premature to comment until a decision is actually issued by the Court.”
“The Speaker is unequivocally pro-life and has led a pro-life majority in the NC General Assembly for 6 years,” Dowdy said, “It is important to note that the leak released yesterday is an unprecedented and egregious breach of decorum within our nation’s highest court.”
During a press conference, state Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham) said if the GOP wins back the supermajority she expects the legislature to pass bills similar to other Republican-led states.
“If we do not elect pro-choice Democrats in November, North Carolina will be the next Texas, passing extreme legislation,” she said.
U.S. Senate candidates weigh in
Soon after the news broke, Cheri Beasley, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat, said, “If confirmed the moment we have feared and fought against has come.”
She added, “This horrifying news — and Washington’s failure to eliminate the filibuster and codify Roe v. Wade to protect our rights — has shown us exactly what is at stake and it is more urgent than ever that we elect leaders who will stand up for our fundamental freedoms in the U.S. Senate.”
On the Republican side, former Gov. Pat McCrory said during a press conference Tuesday he thinks the leak sets “a horrible precedent.”
“And, I think it’s one of the worst constitutional breaches of our democratic process since and including January 6th,” he said. “This leak brings politics into that decision.”
“I’ve never agreed with Roe v. Wade because I think it’s a constitutional overreach,” McCrory added. He also noted he has supported exceptions for rape, incest and protect the life of the mother.
In a statement U.S. Rep. Ted Budd said, ““This unprecedented leak was wrong and damages the Supreme Court. I continue to pray that the justices reach a decision that upholds the sanctity of life and guarantees the right to life for innocent unborn children.”
Former Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Walker tweeted, “On the threshold of victory. Most likely a few weeks before the court’s holding will be published. Keep praying and speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.”