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N.C. House fails to override ‘born-alive’ bill veto

RALEIGH — The N.C. House was unable to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act on Wednesday afternoon.

The N.C. Senate squeaked by with a veto override on a 30-20 vote April 30, and the House tried for a three-fifths vote to override the veto. The House override failed on a 67-53 vote.

Several supporters of Senate Bill 359 spoke ahead of the vote, including Rep. Larry Pittman, R-83, who is a sponsor of the companion House Bill 602 and whose district covers part of Rowan County.

Pittman spoke about Roman culture’s history involving killing infants. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi in saying that a true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members and that a newborn baby is the most vulnerable. 

“We’re at a crossroads,” Pittman said. “What kind of society are we going to be? One that cares for the vulnerable, these little ones who need our help and God says deserve our help. Or are we going to be ones that kill our own children?”

He urged his fellow representatives to vote for the override.

“I’ll tell you this: I think some of you are afraid that if you vote for this override, you may not get re-elected. But I’ll tell you something, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Reps. Harry Warren, R-76, and Julia Howard, R-77, joined Pittman in voting for the veto override.

With all representatives present for the vote, all Republican members voted for the override. Two Democratic representatives joined them.

Warren said he was shocked to see the outcome of the vote, saying he thought more Democrats would have voted on behalf of protecting newborns.

Several other lawmakers, including House Speaker Tim Moore and Rep. Pat McElraft, the sponsor of House Bill 602, said there are no protections for babies who survive a failed abortion, and this bill would set the same standard of care for those babies as ones born naturally. They said the “born alive” bill would save lives.

Warren said the bill had nothing to to do with a woman’s right to an abortion. Instead, it was about the care of a newborn that survived an abortion, Warren said.

Gianna Jensen and Claire Culwell, who are abortion survivors, spoke ahead of the vote about the need for legislation to address others who survived an abortion.

If their stories didn’t persuade other representatives, Warren said, then he doesn’t know what would have.

Opponents of the “born alive” bill argued that laws are already in place to protect newborn babies. Cooper spokesperson Megan Thorpe issued a statement after the failure of the veto override.

“It’s important to protect the lives of all children, and laws already exist to protect newborn babies,” it said. “Instead of passing unnecessary legislation for political purposes we need to move on from divisive social issues and focus on the needs of North Carolina families: education, health care and good-paying jobs.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is running for governor in 2020, spoke of his disappointment after the vote.

“It is a sad day for any state when elected officials lack the moral and ethical courage to stand for the life of a newborn baby, no matter the circumstance,” Forest said.

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