Rep.  Tricia Cotham votes for new NC abortion law, says it ‘strikes a reasonable balance’

Rep. Tricia Cotham votes for new NC abortion law, says it ‘strikes a reasonable balance’

North Carolina Rep. Tricia Cotham cast a pivotal vote Tuesday to pass new restrictions on abortion.

State lawmakers voted Tuesday to override Cooper’s veto of the abortion bill, making the new 12-week abortion restrictions law. Every Republican, including Cotham, voted to support the override.

Cotham released a statement expressing her support for the new restrictions, saying the new law represented “a middle ground that anyone not holding one of the two extremist positions can support.”

Cotham, a former Democrat from Mecklenburg County, changed her party affiliation to Republicans in April, drawing backlash from her constituents and Democrats.

Republicans announced their new abortion bill in mid-May, and many wondered if Cotham would vote for it, as she had campaigned as a Democrat who supported Roe v. Wade.

Rep.  Tricia Cotham, a Mecklenburg County Republican and former Democrat, mouths the words “I see you,”  as demonstrators are escorted from the House gallery by General Assembly police after a vote to override Gov.  Roy Cooper’s veto of an abortion restriction bill Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, NC

Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Mecklenburg County Republican and former Democrat, mouths the words “I see you,” as demonstrators are escorted from the House gallery by General Assembly police after a vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of an abortion restriction bill Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, NC

Her vote was crucial, as she had granted Republicans in the state House a veto-proof supermajority, allowing them to pass legislation steadily, barring the party dissent.

In her statement, Cotham wrote that she understood there were “extremists on both sides of the abortion issue. Some of the absolutists believe abortion is unacceptable in any circumstance and some of the absolutists believe that aborting a perfectly healthy child at the 40th week of pregnancy is morally acceptable. I cannot support either of these extreme positions.”

Instead, she says that like most North Carolinians, she thinks “abortion is a complicated issue without absolute answers. Abortion is an unpleasant subject for many women, and I know of no woman who is considered having an abortion that did so flippantly or unseriously. Despite what some people on the fringes may claim, contemplating an abortion is a grave decision, not a choice I’ve ever known anyone to celebrate.”

“After extensive review, I believe this bill strikes a reasonable balance on the abortion issue and represents a middle ground that anyone not holding one of the two extremist positions can support,” she wrote.

The abortion bill passed into law Tuesday prohibits abortions after 12 weeks, with exceptions up to 20 weeks for rape and incest, up to 24 weeks for “life-limiting” fetal anomalies, and no limit if a physician determines that the life of the mother is in danger due to a medical emergency.

“This legislation gives women continued access to elective abortions during the first trimester of a pregnancy in consultation with their doctor. This is the timeframe when most abortions occur. However, this bill ends elective late term abortions in North Carolina. While crucially providing exceptions for rape, incest, severe fetal abnormalities, and to protect the life of the mother. Women continue to be guaranteed unrestricted care in the event of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy,” wrote Cotham.

The bill also includes new appointment requirements for women seeking medical abortions, new reporting requirements for physicians and new licensing requirements for clinics that provide abortions. It further provides that abortions after 12 weeks must be performed in hospitals. These provisions have faced opposition from some who say they will limit access to abortion care, especially for low-income women.

The bill also includes funding for child care, foster care, and maternity and paternity leave for teachers and state employees. Cotham wrote that she had “insisted that any abortion legislation includes meaningful support and protection for mothers and children to give them the best chance at a good life.”

“This bill provides hundreds of millions of dollars in support for paid parental leave, maternal healthcare, foster care, contraception, and community college tuition and job placement supports to ensure that women and their children have choices, protections and pathways to success. Finally, this bill provides important protections to mothers and children by keeping weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers and ensuring sexual child predators have a lifetime of GPS monitoring and tracking,” Cotham said.

“Some call me a hypocrite since I voted for this bill. They presume to know my story. As I said at the time, I had an ectopic pregnancy that sadly ended in miscarriage, not an elective abortion. In fact, Senate Bill 20 affirms the life-saving care I received in that dire situation. It was very important to me that this legislation protects all women going through a miscarriage or other complications – and that most certainly does,” Cotham said.

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