GOP Searches For One More Vote on Abortion Bill
Voter photo ID measure also on tap for potential veto override
By David N. Bass | Carolina Journal
RALEIGH — When the state House takes up a series of veto overrides in late July, an abortion-related measure could have one of the tightest margins, but supporters say they’ll have enough legislators on board to make it law.
Unlike other attempts to overcome a veto by Gov. Bev Perdue, however, backers of the Abortion-Woman’s Right to Know Act may find it easier getting a three-fifths majority for an override in the House than in the Senate.
House Bill 854 passed the House 71-48 in June. Aside from the state budget, approved 73-46, the bill garnered more votes than any of the five other House measures vetoed by Gov. Bev Perdue. It also gained the most bipartisan backing.
Pro-lifers say the measure would save thousands of unborn lives each year by establishing a waiting period before an abortion and better educating abortion-minded women on risks and alternatives. Opponents say the legislation violates the doctor-patient relationship.
“This bill is a dangerous intrusion into the confidential relationship that exists between women and their doctors,” Perdue said in her veto message (PDF). “The bill contains provisions that are the most extreme in the nation in terms of interfering with that relationship.”
After hours of emotional debate on the House floor, sponsors managed to carve off support from three Democrats — Reps. William Brisson of Bladen County, Dewey Hill of Columbus County, and Timothy Spear of Washington County. The tally was one vote short of a 72-vote majority needed to supersede a veto.
Leading up to a calendared veto-override vote the week of July 25, pro-lifers have mounted an effort to convince at least one more Democrat to change votes. So far, the top targets are Reps. Jim Crawford, D-Granville, and W.A. “Winkie” Wilkins, D-Person.
Crawford voted against the bill, but Wilkins had an excused absence.
“I’m optimistic. We’re so close,” said Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life. “Until the vote is taken or whatever might happen, we will remain optimistic, because we need just one more vote.”
The fight might be more difficult in the Senate. Unlike the House GOP caucus, which remained united on the vote, the Senate Republican caucus only secured 29 votes in favor out of 31 members.
Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson, voted against the measure, while Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, didn’t vote. All 19 Democrats in the Senate voted against it.
Republicans need 30 votes in the Senate to overcome a veto.
Bingham told the Greensboro News & Record that he wants to leave abortion decisions up to women.
“I leave it up to them to make decisions about their own bodies,” Bingham told the newspaper. “It’s just like if I were going to be castrated, I wouldn’t want them to make that decision for me.”
Stevens couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, said he was confident that both chambers would vote to override Perdue’s veto.
“We’re talking to many people who voted no and discovered that many of those who voted no did not really read the bill or understand the bill. They had a lot of misconceptions about it. So, we have a lot of opportunity to educate,” Stam said.
The bill’s chief co-sponsor, Republican Rep. Ruth Samuelson of Mecklenburg County, said the House wouldn’t mount an override unless they have enough votes nailed down.
“If you take a vote and lose, it’s done,” she said. “Otherwise, we can leave it and wait for another time. Somebody might have a change of heart … we don’t want it off the table.”
Other House overrides
The Senate voted Wednesday to overturn six of Perdue’s vetoes. The House could address a number of those in late July, although it’s uncertain whether there is enough Democratic support.
Aside from H.B. 854, another top House bill scheduled for a veto override would require voters to present a valid photo ID at the polls. It passed the House 62-51 in June; six Republicans either didn’t vote or had excused absences.
David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.