North Carolinians' protests against a GOP-controlled state government reached a new pinnacle Monday as 2,000 people flooded the state Capitol to challenge a set of new anti-abortion rules the Legislature is considering, Reuters reported.
In the 10th week of the "Moral Monday" demonstrations, which aim to rally against various policy decisions by the state (health care, education, voting rights), more than 60 people were arrested after refusing to leave the legislative chambers.
The weekly rallies have steadily gained momentum since they began this spring with a few dozen people, led by the local NAACP president, protesting the state's political shift to the right.
Monday's protest gained additional fire in light of lawmakers' maneuver last week to tack strict anti-abortion measures onto an unrelated bill. The abortion limits were introduced in the state Senate committee meeting last Tuesday night without any warning. The bill, along with the proposed restrictions, sailed through the chamber's full vote less than 24 hours later.
Opponents were outraged and argued that the move was a sneaky attempt to close abortion clinics in a state where laws governing reproductive rights were already tight.
The Legislature's actions put Gov. Pat McCrory, the state's first Republican governor in 20 years, in a political bind. As a candidate in 2012, McCrory said he would not sign any further abortion restrictions into law. (North Carolina is already one of nine states that bans abortions after 20 weeks, and has laws on the books that insist women undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion.)
"There is a fine line between safety measures and restrictions," McCrory told reporters at the executive mansion Monday. "But those two lines should not be confused. I am very concerned about the responsibility to ensure that the health of women is protected."
The legislation is now being debated in a state House committee.
North Carolina's reproductive rights dispute coincides with similar clashes happening around the country at the both the state and federal level. Thousands flocked to the Texas Capitol Tuesday to protest a bill on the House floor that would effectively ban abortions in the Lone Star state. The Texas Senate is expected to meet Wednesday. While in Wisconsin, a federal judge temporarily blocked some of that state's new abortion requirements signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Last week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law some of the most prohibitive abortion measures in the country, via the state budget. And then there's Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican and potential 2016 contender, who is expected to soon introduce a bill in the Senate that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy--a direct violation of the freedoms guaranteed by Roe v. Wade.