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Anti-abortion bill removed from N.C. House calendar. Chamber was scheduled to vote on override of Gov. Cooper's veto.
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Anti-abortion bill removed from N.C. House calendar. Chamber was scheduled to vote on override of Gov. Cooper's veto.

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The Republican-controlled state House has removed from Wednesday’s floor calendar a potential override attempt of a veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper vetoed on June 25 the Republican-sponsored House Bill 453, which would have banned abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

The bill also would bar women from having an abortion based on the race or sex of the fetus.

HB453 is the third of four Republican-sponsored bills that Cooper has vetoed in the current session.

The House placed HB453 on its floor calendar for June 28, only to remove and shift it to the July 21 calendar.

On Monday, House leadership sent HB453 to the House Rules and Operations committee, where it could remain for the rest of the 2021 session.

Typically, placing a vetoed bill in either the House or Senate Rules committee serves a holding place while the leadership of the majority party attempts to persuade members of the minority party to support a veto override vote.

In the instance of HB453, the Senate approved the bill June 10 by a 27-20 vote with no Democrats voting yes. The House approved the bill May 6 by a 67-42 margin with six Democrats voting yes.

The Senate is made up of 28 Republicans and 22 Democrats, while the House has 69 Republicans and 53 Democrats.

At full attendance, at least 30 votes are required in the Senate to override a governor’s veto, as well as at least 72 in the House.

Political analysts say that keeping a vetoed bill in a Rules committee allows it to be returned quickly for a floor vote.

“This move signals that House leaders are in no hurry to act on a veto override,” said Mitch Kokai, senior policy analyst with Libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation.

“There’s a decent chance HB453 could make it out of the House with the necessary three-fifths majority to overcome the governor’s objections.

“But, House leaders are certainly aware that it had zero Democratic support in the Senate,” Kokai said. “It’s likely that they will decide in the days ahead whether it’s short- or long-term parking.”

HB453 background

A potential veto override vote on HB453 could represent the latest round of political gamesmanship between Cooper and Republican legislative leaders.

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Bill sponsors in both chambers, including Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, have tried to frame the debate as a eugenics issue — an intensely sensitive topic in North Carolina.

Bill opponents said they fear the doctor-patient conversation requirements in the bill could jeopardize women’s trust in medical care and could lead some women with other reasons for considering an abortion to carry pregnancies to term once they learn of a Down syndrome diagnosis.

“This bill gives the government control over what happens and what is said in the exam room between a woman and her doctor at a time she faces one of the most difficult decisions of her life,” Cooper wrote in his veto statement.

“This bill is unconstitutional and it damages the doctor-patient relationship with an unprecedented government intrusion.”

Republican legislative leaders responded swiftly to decry Cooper’s veto.

“Gender, race, and disability are protected classes in most other contexts,” House speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a statement. “Why should we allow the unborn to be discriminated against for these same traits?

“The message sent by this veto is that some human life is more valuable than others based on immutable characteristics.”

Other vetoes

The other three bills vetoed by Cooper reside in the Senate Rules committee.

Senate Bill 37, titled “In-person Learning Choice for Families,” cleared the legislature Feb. 17 and was vetoed by Cooper on Feb. 26.

The bill would have compelled the state’s 115 K-12 public-school districts to reopen with at least partial in-person instruction, while also allowing parents the option of keeping their kids learning remotely.

A Senate veto override vote failed by a 29-20 vote on March 1. The bill was placed in Senate Rules on March 3 and hasn’t been addressed since.

Senate Bill 43, titled “Protest Religious Meeting Places,” cleared the legislature June 8 and was vetoed by Cooper on June 18. It was placed in Senate Rules on June 21 and hasn’t been addressed since.

SB43 would allow parishioners at more churches to be armed, as well as those going to religious services at a location where private schools or some charter schools also meet, according to The Associated Press.

Senate Bill 116, titled “Putting North Carolina Back to Work Act, cleared the legislature June 23 and was vetoed by Cooper on July 2. It was placed in Senate Rules on July 6 and hasn’t been addressed since.

SB116 would require North Carolina to withdraw early from two federal pandemic relief unemployment benefit programs.

Those programs pay a $300 weekly federal benefit to eligible North Carolinians. The program are set to expire Sept. 6.

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@rcraverWSJ

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