vetoes records State Legislative Building. Budget impasse.
The North Carolina General Assembly meets in the State Legislative Building in Raleigh, seen here in Feb. 2018. Frank Taylor / Carolina Public Press

Members of the N.C. House of Representatives are poised to vote next week on whether to override Gov. Roy Cooper‘s veto of the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Act, following an announcement Wednesday from House Speaker Tim Moore.

The measure, S.B. 359, creates punishments, including prison time and fines, for medical professionals who don’t provide care to babies accidentally born alive as a result of botched abortions.

In a year when lawmakers across the country have passed controversial abortion-related laws, the North Carolina measure has drawn steep division along party lines. Many Democrats have criticized the measure as unnecessary and a mean-spirited attempt to frighten doctors and nurses. They’ve also criticized the Republican effort to override the veto, which requires a three-fifths majority of House members, something the bill fell short of when the House initially passed the legislation in April.

Republicans says the measure is intended to safeguard the health of infants born accidentally due to botched abortions. The parties disagree over the frequency of such births.

An April 19 post from Politifact NC sought to debunk some of the inflated claims that the sides have made about the bill. Politifact found that multiple laws already protect babies born under such conditions, despite statements from Republican lawmakers.

But Politifact also found that Democratic claims that the bill would criminally push mothers in these born-alive situations was also false. Politifact similarly disputed claims from Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union that the measure would in any way restrict abortion access and legality.

On the biggest point of contention about the bill, Politifact found that how often newborns are being left to die intentionally is “unclear.” While acknowledging that allowing a baby to die in such as situation does happen, medical experts told Politifact, it would be in the context of a very premature child born accidentally alive without having developed organs, such as lungs, to survive.

While Republicans control a majority in both houses of the General Assembly, following the 2018 election they do not have a veto-proof majority. As a result, a veto override effort will require some Democrats to side with the Republicans or be absent during the vote. That’s already happened in the Senate where one Democrat crossed over. The House override vote set for June 5 will depend on whether enough Democrats in the House fail to uphold the veto.

Social media reacts to veto override effort

While the news quickly drew the attention of news organizations based in the state capital, such as the News & Observer and WRAL, it also caught fire on social media.

Overnight, some lawmakers went online to share their views on the controversial topic with constituents.

“It’s time to take a stand on caring for children born alive and surviving all on their own in our state, no matter the circumstances,” Moore wrote on his Facebook page Thursday morning as he shared the News & Observer article. “We are not in New York. We won’t let a living, breathing baby born alive be left to die without care in North Carolina.”

Later, Moore shared a post to his personal webpage in which he claimed a “dark money group” supporting Democrats is defending infanticide after botched abortions and citing the Politifact NC article as evidence that cases of children dying after being born alive accidentally during abortions do occur.

On his Facebook page, Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, shared the speaker’s webpage and commented. “We MUST protect the sanctity of human life!” Lewis wrote. “Next Wednesday we will override Governor Cooper’s wicked Veto of the #BornAliveAct. A North Carolinian is a North Carolinian, no matter how small.”

Democratic social media pages have accused Moore of manipulating the timing of the vote in the hope that enough Democratic members will be absent to allow an override, specifically exploiting the cancer battle of Rep. Sydney Batch, D-Wake.

Rep. Ashley Wheeler Clemmons, D-Guilford, posted to Facebook on the situation last week, “1) Sydney Batch is incredible, 2) Enough games. 3) Respect voters,” as she shared a story about the delaying tactics from the national news site Huffpost.

Another Democratic representative, Julie von Haefen of Wake County, accused Republicans of gaming the voting schedule, as she commented last week on her share of a post from the left-leaning website Talking Points Memo: “If you’re wondering why SB 359 continues to be placed on the House calendar day after day, this article explains the games the GOP is playing to try to override the governor’s veto.”

The Senate vote to override the governor’s veto occurred on April 30, with a 30-20 vote. Sen. Don Davis, D-Pitt, was the only senator to cross party lines by supporting the override.

When the House initially passed the measure on April 16 with a 65-46 vote, Democrats James Gailliard of Nash County, Charles Graham of Robeson County, Garland Pierce of Scotland County and Raymond Smith Jr. of Sampson County voted with Republicans. No Republican House members opposed the bill at that time, but Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, did not vote despite being present. Several House members on both sides were absent during that vote, which could complicate the vote counting ahead of the override attempt.

Republicans would need a three-fifths majority, which would require 72 of the House’s 120 members if everyone votes, seven more than supported the measure when it passed in April. However, if some members aren’t present the math changes.

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