With Cooper set for abortion rally and veto, Rev. Barber condemns ‘extremist’ lawmakers
Clergy and advocates from across North Carolina gathered inside the General Assembly on Friday to denounce the Republican abortion bill that passed both legislative chambers last week.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has said he will veto Senate Bill 20 at a rally on Saturday, attempting to block a bill that bans most abortions after 12 weeks.
The 10 a.m. rally will bring opponents of the bill to Raleigh’s Bicentennial Mall, while at least some of the bill’s supporters plan to assemble at the same time nearby in front of the Legislative Building.
Republicans have said the bill is “mainstream” and “pro-woman,” with exceptions up to 20 weeks for rape and incest, up to 24 weeks for “life-limiting” fetal anomalies and without a limit if the mother’s life is in danger. It contains funding for services, such as child care, foster care and contraception, as well as paid parental leave for teachers and state employees.
Democrats and those against the bill have said it’s extreme and will cause harm to pregnant people, especially those who are low-income and may face complications getting an abortion due to the shorter time frame and new requirements. They also called out the speedy passage of the bill, with limited public input.
Cooper’s veto is expected to be overridden by Republicans, who have a slim supermajority in both legislative chambers.
Still, that was not a deterrent for the coalition, spearheaded by the Rev. William Barber II, a nationally recognized pastor from Goldsboro who called on lawmakers to vote against an override. The coalition also called on Cooper to push back against the abortion bill, as well as other legislation this year they found harmful.
“Nothing this legislature is doing is about choosing life. If extremists were deeply concerned about life, they would have done something to address the number one killer of children: gun violence,” said Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, which both sent representatives Friday.
Lawmakers say they “care about life in the womb but then when the child gets outside the womb, you want to cut food stamps, health care, wages for parents, attempt to say anti-abortion stance is synonymous with godliness,” Barber said, ”basically saying that real godliness in public policy is guns, tax cuts, denying living wages and health care, suppressing voting rights, being anti-abortion, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ.
“Well we as clergy come to say, no, a prophetic no. It is absolute hypocrisy to say you care about life and then you write a law that puts poor and low-income women’s lives in jeopardy.”
Chalice Overy, a pastor at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, said Friday that lawmakers “are passing these bills and they’re charging it to poor people.”
Low-income women, who are often not paid sick leave and who may not know how their weekly schedule looks, will face complications attending additional appointments which amount “to psychological intimidation,” Overy said.
Some have also expressed concern that the 12-week abortion limit will lead many people to seek abortions out-of-state, or even illegally, and that new requirements for clinics may force many to shut down.
The Rev. Claudia Jimenez, a pastor at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, said she drove to Raleigh to speak against the bill because she was “outraged” it could lead to the closing of the one clinic in Asheville, “that serves not only Western North Carolina, but other states, including our neighbors in Tennessee.”
“This immoral abortion ban will particularly harm people in rural areas, working people and those who historically lack access to affordable health care, people of color, young people and LGBTQ+ North Carolinians,” she said.
After the press conference, the coalition lined up and made their way out of the Legislative Building, en route to the governor’s mansion a few blocks away to speak with Cooper.
Once done, they planned to deliver letters to all state legislators denouncing the abortion bill and other legislation.
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