The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had provided a constitutional right to abortion. Friday's ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. In anticipation of the decision, several states led by Democrats have taken steps to protect abortion access. The decision also sets up the potential for legal fights between the states over whether providers and those who help women obtain abortions can be sued or prosecuted.

Political Control

In North Carolina, Republicans hold majorities in the state House and Senate, but the party lacks the margins to defeat a veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, a strong abortion-rights supporter. Since 2017, Cooper has vetoed a “born-alive” abortion measure and a bill prohibiting abortion based on race or a Down syndrome diagnosis. He can't seek reelection in 2024 due to term limits.


A 1973 North Carolina law that banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is currently unenforceable after federal judges struck it down as unconstitutional in 2019 and 2021. Instead, abortions can be performed until fetal viability. A state law approved in 2015 provides for post-viability abortions only in a “medical emergency,” which means the woman would die or face a “serious risk” of substantial and irreversible physical impairment without the procedure.

Effect of Supreme Court ruling

The 20-week ban could be restored. Legal experts say formal action would have to be taken to dismiss the earlier court rulings striking it down. State Attorney General Josh Stein is a Democrat and abortion rights supporter. Republican lawmakers could try to force action themselves.

What's next?

Republican General Assembly leaders have low expectations of additional abortion restrictions coming during the soon-to-end legislative session, meaning a likely intensification of electoral efforts to gain the five additional seats the GOP needs to reach veto-proof margins come 2023. Cooper and other Democrats already are making abortion rights a key campaign pitch. Abortion politics are also expected to figure in two state Supreme Court seat elections in November. Republicans would gain a majority on the court if they win at least one of them.

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