Jan 22, 2024 - News

Roe v. Wade anniversary reignites "a-word" wars

Illustration of a red caduceus crossed with a blue caduceus.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Roe v. Wade may be history but today's anniversary of the 1973 decision is providing a potent rallying point for both sides in the abortion wars.

Why it matters: Abortion is bound to be a central issue in campaigns across the country, including North Carolina. Candidates and elected officials are using the occasion to kickstart messaging on the topic ahead of the November election.

What's happening: Congressional Republicans last week passed a pair of symbolic bills they said would protect pregnant women's rights but that Democrats contend would further erode abortion access.

  • The bills stand no chance in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, but the priority assigned to them signals that the GOP majority isn't finished with its abortion efforts.
  • Democrats are also kicking off an abortion campaign this week, with appearances by President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and a new ad blitz focused on reproductive rights.

Flashback: North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature passed into law last summer legislation banning abortions after 12 weeks, with numerous exceptions.

  • Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the legislation, but Republicans overrode that veto, thanks Republicans' narrow supermajority in the General Assembly.

State of play: The governor's mansion is up for grabs this year, as term-limited Cooper isn't eligible for re-election.

  • The race is expected to come down to Democratic frontrunner Attorney General Josh Stein and likely Republican nominee Mark Robinson.
  • Democrats argue that, should Robinson win, Republicans could further roll back abortion restrictions whether or not they hold onto their supermajority. (Every state legislative seat is also up for grabs this year).

Catch up quick: In past statements, Robinson has repeatedly called abortion "murder" or "genocide" and said he wants North Carolina to be the "most pro-life state in the nation."

  • "If I had all the power right now, let's say I was the governor and had a willing legislature, we could pass a bill saying you can't have an abortion in North Carolina for any reason," Robinson said in February of last year. "I'd love to pass a law. I'd love to see a 'heartbeat bill' proposed in our legislature."

The intrigue: Since then, however, with a highly competitive general election in the swing state that is North Carolina around the corner, it appears that Robinson has somewhat softened his language surrounding abortion, CNN reported last week.

  • At an August event, "Robinson said he didn't recall making statements in support of a total ban on abortion," according to CNN, but did say he would "love to see abortion outlawed."
  • "Being an elected official, I don't rule by my opinion, and I don't rule by just what I think," Robinson said.
  • And in July, Robinson called abortion "the a-word" in a speech, Rolling Stone reported at the time.
  • "North Carolina needs to become a destination state for life," Robinson reportedly told a crowd. "Now notice what I said: I said 'life.' I did not say the A-word. The A-word. Everybody wants us to say the A-word… No sir."

What we're watching: Expect Democrats, namely Stein, to bring up Robinson's language surrounding abortion in the coming months in an effort to lock in the support of pro-abortion rights voters like suburban women.

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