Mar 27, 2023 - News

NC Republicans are at an impasse on abortion restrictions

Animated illustration of a gavel replacing the pendulum inside a grandfather clock.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The future of abortion is in limbo in North Carolina, where thousands of women have flocked since the fall of Roe v. Wade.

Why it matters: With a functioning supermajority in the legislature, Republicans have made restricting abortions beyond the state's current 20-week ban a top priority.

  • Three months into this year's legislative session, however, Republicans have yet to introduce any abortion legislation, as they've been debating for months about how far to go.
  • Now, however, Republicans are questioning whether they'll be able pass a bill this year at all.

What they're saying: "Allowing for abortion up to 20 weeks" is not acceptable, SBA Pro-Life America’s Southern regional director Caitlin Connors told Axios in a statement. "And doing nothing to change that existing law is not acceptable."

What we're watching: North Carolina's state House, where abortion restrictions will live or die. While Republicans in the Senate have the luxury of a supermajority, House Republicans need one Democrat to vote with them.

  • Because of that, Republicans in both chambers are expected to wait to introduce any abortion legislation until they have that backing — something some lawmakers, strategists and insiders believe will only happen with a first-trimester ban, not a 6-week or heartbeat ban.

Meanwhile: Some anti-abortion groups are pushing Republicans to only back legislation that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — a proposal many believe doesn't have a shot at becoming law.

What's next: In recent days at least one of those anti-abortion groups has read the writing on the wall, sources tell Axios, and expressed openness to a 12-week ban, so long as the legislation includes other provisions that could help reduce abortions, like incentivizing adoption.

  • "We want women to feel like they have options," Republican Sen. Paul Newton told Axios.

The bottom line: That shift could help the legislation get unstuck, but bill filing deadlines are rapidly approaching.

  • As of now, as House Republicans are set to roll out a budget proposal next week, the legislature seems a long way off from introducing new abortion restrictions.

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