RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed on Thursday a North Carolina Senate Bill that requires doctors and nurses to care for babies born alive during a failed late-term abortion or face big penalties.
House lawmakers passed the bill Tuesday, a day after Senate counterparts approved the bill, which would mean prison time and big fines for medical practitioners who don't give children born despite a botched abortion the same protections as any other newborn.
A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper criticized the measure later Tuesday, raising expectations the governor would veto the legislation.
"This unnecessary legislation would criminalize doctors for a practice that simply does not exist," Ford Porter wrote in an email.
Republicans speaking in favor of the measure said it had nothing to do with abortion. The aim was protecting an infant if a late-term abortion was botched and the baby was born breathing and with a beating heart, said Republican Rep. Pat McElraft of Carteret County.
Abortion-rights lawmakers and activists strongly opposed the bill, saying state medical licensing boards and current criminal laws already punish doctors and nurses who fail to offer care to a newborn. Rather, they argue, the measure seeks to force medical actions between a physician and a pregnant woman, interfering with her right to an abortion.
They added that medical providers could be charged with murder for some of the acts the bill's supporters described.
"Do any of you really think that infanticide is legal in North Carolina?" responded Democratic Rep. Susan Fisher of Buncombe County. She questioned why Republicans who have controlled the legislature for nearly a decade hadn't acted earlier if they believed babies were being left to die or even killed after being born alive.
Fisher said the measure's real purpose was to intimidate health care providers from conducting legally allowed abortions. The legislation would impose prison time and potential $250,000 fines for medical practitioners who fail to provide sufficient care.
Cooper said in a statement regarding his veto of SB 359:
"Laws already protect newborn babies and this bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients. This needless legislation would criminalize doctors and other healthcare providers for a practice that simply does not exist."