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Abortion Access In North Carolina Might Hinge On 5 Seats In The State Legislature

North Carolina has become a haven for women in states throughout the South seeking abortion. According to Planned Parenthood, around a third of women getting abortions in North Carolina in July came from out of state, significantly higher than the 14 percent who sought abortions in June, when Roe v. Wade was overturned. This November, Republicans are looking to flip a few key seats in the state legislature to gain a supermajority and pass an abortion ban that would withstand a veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.


Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux: Right now, abortion is legal in North Carolina until 20 weeks of pregnancy. But it won’t stay that way for long if Republicans in the state legislature are able to win enough seats in the upcoming midterm elections.

Senate leader Phil Berger said recently that he would support a ban on abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy. And House Speaker Tim Moore supports a ban on abortion after fetal cardiac activity is first detected, which usually happens around six weeks into a pregnancy.

But while Republicans have a majority in the North Carolina legislature, they don’t have the supermajority they would need to override a veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. That means the kind of abortion legislation that can be enacted in the 2023 legislative session hinges on whether they’re are able to pick up a handful of seats.

Republicans need to flip two seats in the Senate and three seats in the House to reach that coveted supermajority — and, of course, also hold onto all of their current seats. There are about a dozen races, mostly in Republican-leaning districts, that are pretty competitive. So, not an easy task but not an impossible one either.

A more extreme abortion ban wouldn’t just have an impact on North Carolinians. Many of the states surrounding North Carolina already have strict abortion bans. According to Planned Parenthood, in July, more than a third of patients accessing abortion care at its North Carolina clinics came from out of state. Roe was overturned in late June — and in that month, the share of out of state patients was just 14 percent. There aren’t many states left in the South where abortion is legal at all. So if it’s restricted in North Carolina too, Southerners who want abortions could have to travel even further to get one.

The majority of North Carolinians don’t want more restrictions than they already have. A poll of registered voters in North Carolina conducted in early August found that 55 percent thought the current laws are about right or wanted even fewer restrictions, while only 37 percent wanted more restrictions.

But will that stop Republicans from winning a supermajority in the legislature? Well … that’s harder to say. State legislative races are much less high-profile than elections for Congress or governor. Voters might simply not realize how much is riding on the outcome of a few tightly contested elections.

Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux is a senior editor and senior reporter for FiveThirtyEight.

Sophia Lebowitz is a former video producer at FiveThirtyEight.


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