Over the summer, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed what is perhaps the country’s most restrictive voting law, as well as a strict anti-abortion law that could drastically reduce access for women in need. But McCrory says he hasn’t paid much attention to either issue.
In an appearance on Monday at the conservative Heritage Foundation, the governor laid out the subjects he has prioritized since taking office in January:
With my legislature, I focused on, primarily, three areas: the economy, education, and government efficiency. Frankly, everything outside that area, I didn’t put a lot of attention to. Now I had certain state reps and state senators who focused on other things, which they need to. But I wanted to focus, as the executive branch, on the economy, education, and government efficiency.
McCrory’s admission is troubling to reproductive rights advocates, who fear that the stricter regulations on abortion clinics signed into law by McCrory in July could force every existing facility in the state to shut down.
“While he was apparently ‘not paying attention,’ the governor broke a clear campaign promise by signing into law the most egregious attack on women’s reproductive rights and safety that we have seen in over 40 years,” said Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, referring to a 2012 promise by McCrory not to sign further restrictions on abortion.
The measure, quietly inserted into a motorcycle safety measure, was as far-reaching as the Texas law that prompted Wendy Davis’ 13-hour filibuster in June.
The admission also might not go over well with the more than 500,000 eligible voters in North Carolina believed to lack any of the narrow range of IDs approved for voting under the Republican-backed voting law, which also cuts back on early voting and scraps same-day registration, among other restrictions. The U.S. Justice Department is suing North Carolina over the law, arguing that it discriminates against minorities. Lately, McCrory has been mounting an aggressive public defense of the measure.
McCrory has presented himself as a pragmatic, business-minded technocrat. Republicans in the state legislature took the lead on both the voting and the abortion laws.
Still, it’s hard to dispute that both the abortion law and the voting law enacted sweeping changes. But to McCrory, that wasn’t enough to make him pay much attention before signing.