The Abortion Question

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June, the question of what abortion law will look like going forward in North Carolina has been on a lot of people’s minds. I hear from them in emails, on the phone, and when I knock on their door. And while voters are all over the map when it comes to abortion, there are three fundamental realities about where people in North Carolina and southern Wake County are on the issue right now:

  1. Most people oppose a ban on all abortion;
  2. Most people support reasonable limits on elective abortion; and
  3. Most people oppose taxpayer-funding of abortion.

So what should that mean for North Carolina’s laws on abortion when the General Assembly convenes next year?

Here’s my view. I think that next year the General Assembly should update its laws to reflect where most people are. That’s no total ban, reasonable limits, and no taxpayer funding.

What do I mean by that?

Let’s start with no total ban. I think any legislation next year should include exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother—horrific situations that present the most difficult questions and where people have reasonable disagreements about the relevant ethical considerations. I also think the law should ensure appropriate discretion for medical professionals when it comes to issues of non-viable pregnancies. So anyone who suggests I’m going to vote to “ban” all abortion next year is lying to you.

Next, reasonable limits. Most people support time limits on abortion when an exception doesn’t apply. Voters have a wide variety of views on where those time limits should be. Right now in North Carolina, abortions are allowed for any reason through 20 weeks of pregnancy, but most voters support a narrower time frame if exceptions are in place, with limits somewhere around the first trimester. I would support narrowing the time frame for elective abortion when an exception doesn’t apply. But before the General Assembly draws any specific lines, I think we need to have public hearings with medical professionals to gain an appropriately nuanced perspective about how practical realities will interact with the law.

Third, no taxpayer funding. That’s the law in North Carolina now, and most people support it staying that way. The prohibition on taxpayer funding recognizes that there’s widespread disagreement on abortion, so we shouldn’t require folks with sincere objections to fund abortion through their tax dollars.

I would vote to update North Carolina’s abortion laws consistent with these things, and I think this is the right move for North Carolina next year.

Now you might ask, does this mean you’re pro-choice, John? And while the politically convenient answer might be, “Sure,” it wouldn’t be the truthful one. I am decisively pro-life. That means I believe life begins at conception. And like millions of women and men across our state and country, I also believe that every unborn child is worthy of legal protection at all stages of pregnancy. It’s a view informed by my faith, by watching each of my three children on the ultrasound screen, and by the philosophy of government enshrined in our country’s founding documents. My sincere hope is that every unborn child will be given a chance at life, and that even in a regime of legal abortion, people will choose life. That’s why I’ve supported pro-life causes with my time and my money. I also hope that more people will come to share these views in time.

But I’m also a realist, and I recognize that this time has not yet come. When you get right down to it, most people don’t see the world the same way as me right now, and they balance things pretty differently. If I ignore that reality when voting on what the law should be, I abdicate my duty as a representative. Politicians often don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about their duty. I think our politics needs to be different. We need people who are comfortable acknowledging complex realities, meeting people where they are in good faith, and approaching difficult questions with compassion. That’s what I’m going to do.

Unfortunately, my Democratic opponent, Rep. Julie von Haefen, has taken the opposite approach. She has staked out her ground on abortion very clearly, and it is a radical one: Abortion should be legal at any time, for any reason, and taxpayers should pay for it—disagreement be damned. Can there be compromise? Forget it. “We should never compromise,” Julie said about abortion at a recent press conference.

Julie has also said that even current limits in North Carolina are too “extreme,” and she is opposed to restrictions on abortion “regardless of when they start.” You read that right. That would mean legalizing late-term abortion and partial-birth abortion. And Julie has literally sponsored legislation supporting taxpayer-funded abortion (HB188).

Any time. Any reason. Taxpayers pay for it.

These radical views are deeply unpopular here and around the world. What’s more, Julie knows they’re unpopular. That’s why she went on TV recently and said, “Democrats aren’t campaigning on abortion-on-demand or taxpayer-funded abortion.” She’s right; she’s not campaigning on her radical views even though it’s in the bills she’s sponsored. Instead, her cynical strategy is to pull the wool over your eyes and make you absolutely terrified of a Republican-led General Assembly that Democrats falsely claim will enact a total abortion ban on January 1.

This is a lie. They know it’s a lie. And so when they send that lie to a mailbox, phone, or TV in the next few weeks, don’t be fooled.

This fall, if you want a radical on abortion, vote for Julie. But if you vote for me, you’ll get what you voted for: A representative.