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'A dark day for freedom in North Carolina': NCGA abortion bill prompts protests

Protesters gather on the third floor of the Legislative Building on May 3, 2023, to protest a new anti-abortion bill introduced in the N.C. General Assembly.

Rachel Abbott stood in Bicentennial Plaza on Wednesday afternoon in Raleigh holding a sign that read: “I am not an incubator.”

Around her, Planned Parenthood organizers with matching shirts and clipboards and abortion clinic escorts proudly donned rainbow vests. They were participants in Monday afternoon's “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally, organized by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in response to a bill introduced in the N.C. General Assembly on Tuesday. 

The "Care for Women, Children and Families Act," supported by N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R- Cleveland, Rutherford) and N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Guilford, Rockingham) would ban abortion in North Carolina after 12 weeks.

Though Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Wednesday that he would veto the bill, Republicans now have a supermajority in the General Assembly following N.C. Rep. Tricia Cotham's (R-Mecklenburg) recent party switch.

General Assembly Republican leaders confirmed in their announcement on Tuesday that they secured the necessary votes — 30 in the Senate and 72 in the House — to override a potential veto from Cooper.

“I am here to protest the atrocity that happened last night with radical lawmakers trying to take away my access to basic healthcare,” Abbott said.

A crowd of protestors gathered outside of the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh just before 1 p.m., with the group growing in size as speakers began to address the crowd.

Numerous public officials spoke, including U.S. Reps. Wiley Nickel (D-NC, 13th) and Deborah Ross (D-NC, 2nd), N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein and N.C. Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Chatham, Durham). 

Stein opened his speech by declaring Wednesday “a dark day for freedom in North Carolina.” He said that, while S.B. 20 is not a total abortion ban, it is a “massive first step” in that direction. 

"We are in a battle for freedom in this state,” Stein said. “We have to mobilize over the next two weeks to defeat this legislation."

Stein, who is running for North Carolina governor in 2024, also placed importance on the upcoming election in securing reproductive rights for North Carolinians. 

“We have to win seats in the General Assembly, we have to win seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court and we have to win the governor’s office in 2024,” Stein said. “If we don’t, this Republican legislature will keep coming and keep coming until they have completely and totally banned abortion and taken away our freedoms and our power.”

Members of the General Assembly opposing the bill expressed frustration over its rushed introduction, according to Murdock. She said she did not have access to it until 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

She also said this is part of a recent pattern of bills going through the Senate and House floors with little debate and few opportunities for amendments.

“This is not what democracy looks like,” she said.

Molly Rivera, a communications director for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and an organizer of Wednesday’s protest, said that pro-choice North Carolinians have been preparing for an abortion ban. 

“We have organized for people to come out today to show our opposition, especially since we were not given the opportunity to do that,” Rivera said.

After Riviera and members of the General Assembly spoke outside of the Legislative Building, protestors moved inside. They gathered on the third floor, outside of the House chamber gallery, awaiting a vote on the bill.

The N.C. House passed the bill 71-46 on Wednesday evening and the N.C. Senate will vote on it Thursday, per the General Assembly calendar.


@DTHCityState | 

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Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.