NC Republicans respond after Cooper calls out abortion votes


Abortion in North Carolina

Republicans in the North Carolina state legislature have reached a consensus on new abortion restrictions. What does that mean for access to abortion? Read coverage on the issue from The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer.

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Two North Carolina Republicans dismissed Gov. Roy Cooper’s comments Friday after the Democratic governor said a vote to override his expected veto of the new GOP abortion bill would be breaking what he described as campaign promises to “protect women’s reproductive health.”

After new abortion restrictions cleared a final vote in the legislature Thursday evening, Cooper said that Republicans were pushing through legislation that “dramatically reduces women’s health care freedom.”

Thursday night, in social media and in a video posted to his accounts, he singled out four GOP lawmakers — Rep. Ted Davis and Sen. Michael Lee of New Hanover County and Reps. John Bradford and Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County — for not honoring the platforms they ran on in last year’s election. He said only one Republican needs to “help sustain the veto of this dangerous abortion ban.”

“There’s still time for them to keep their promises,” Cooper wrote.

Now that they control a supermajority in both chambers, GOP leaders say they fully expect to successfully bypass Cooper’s veto. The last vote they needed to be able to override vetoes on their own came from Cotham, who switched parties in April and voted in favor of the 12-week bill on Wednesday.

Bradford, who told WSOC in October that he supported current state law that allows abortions up until 20 weeks, voted for the GOP’s 12-week abortion bill this week along with every other Republican who was present.

Bradford and Lee respond to Cooper

On Friday, Bradford dismissed Cooper’s call for him to help sustain his veto, telling WSOC that he was serving his fourth term in the legislature, and Cooper “wouldn’t know me if he bumped into me.”

“In March he hosted a Down syndrome advocacy event and despite being the leading advocate for Down syndrome in the state legislature, I was excluded,” Bradford said in a statement to WSOC. “Last session I was the primary bill sponsor for an organ donor transplant discrimination bill. He held a public bill signing event but chose not to invite me, the number one primary sponsor and Republican, and instead invited a Democrat legislator.”

He also said Cooper ignored a request from him to cancel toll roads on I-77, before adding,”It’s ironic that Cooper acts like he knows me, wants to work with me or is even talking about honoring campaign promises.”

Lee, on the other hand, said Cooper was misrepresenting his position on abortion prior to the election by implying that his vote in favor of the bill would break a campaign promise.

“I will not let the Governor lie to the people of my district and this state and try to bully me out of legislation I campaigned on supporting,” Lee said on Twitter. “I was clear on my position then, and I am clear now — I support 1st trimester abortions with exceptions beyond the first 12 weeks. That is exactly what this bill does.”

In September, Lee wrote in an op-ed calling for “common ground on abortion” that he opposed a ban in the first trimester, but believed that abortions in the second and third trimester “are abhorrent and should be restricted.” He said he also supported having exceptions for rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother.

Cooper received the abortion bill from the Senate on Thursday evening, and has 10 days to issue his veto. Republicans are expected to hold swift override votes to enact the new restrictions into law.

Cotham and Davis have yet to address votes

Cotham previously spoke on multiple occasions about her strong support for abortion rights, including during a 2015 debate on the House floor over extending the mandatory waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours. She told the story then of having to undergo a medically-necessary abortion herself.

And while campaigning for another term in the House last year, Cotham said lawmakers “should act now to codify Roe v. Wade to affirm the right to an abortion without interference.”

Since joining the GOP, Cotham hasn’t addressed if or how her views have changed on the issue, beyond telling reporters in April that she wouldn’t comment on whether she’d support a Republican abortion bill before having read it or discussed it with anyone. She also hasn’t responded to requests for comment from The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer since her vote Wednesday on why she supported the new restrictions.

Davis, who had an excused absence during Wednesday’s vote, said during an October town hall that he supported maintaining the 20-week law currently in place. He also said there were times when he disagreed with House Speaker Tim Moore on a bill, and told him he would vote for what he thought was “best for the people I represent.”

Davis didn’t respond to a request for comment from The N&O on Friday, but Moore told reporters on Thursday that Davis is “a ‘yes’ vote on the override,” and that “there’s no issue there.”

This story was originally published May 5, 2023, 6:24 PM.

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Avi Bajpai is a state politics reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He previously covered breaking news and public safety. Contact him at or (919) 346-4817.

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