Source: Editorial Board
North Carolina Republican state Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) likes to portray himself as a moderate, which makes sense considering how closely split his District 7 is. Unfortunately for his constituents and the rest of the state, he is anything but moderate.
This is a man who won his race in 2020 by 1,268 votes and won in 2022 by 2,110 votes against a Democratic opponent who only had four months to run a campaign after the previous candidate dropped out. Those are not numbers that should instill confidence in a candidate that they were given any sort of mandate by the voters.
Coming into the 2023-24 legislative session, Lee had voted five times to restrict abortions in North Carolina since he started in the state Senate, including a vote in 2015 to institute a 72-hour waiting period for people seeking abortions, which is among the longest in the nation. He can add two more votes to that tally after he voted this month for the NCGOP’s abortion ban and then voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the bill, despite campaigning on the fact that he would “oppose an extreme abortion ban” if re-elected.
In voting for the extreme abortion ban that will inevitably lead to women and girls being forced to carry a pregnancy and give birth against their will, Lee ignored the pleadings of health care providers and business leaders around the state who said the extreme abortion ban was bad for North Carolina.
Sen. Lee was a deciding vote on the bill that will impose often insurmountable barriers on early abortions. In doing so, he voted in lock-step with far-right Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly in an effort to decimate reproductive freedom in our state.
Because of Michael Lee’s vote, reproductive health clinics could be shut down, making it especially difficult for those in rural areas, working people and young people to access reproductive care.
Shutting down clinics and restricting abortion is seemingly the ultimate goal of state Republicans – all you have to do is listen to the words of party leaders like House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.
Moore, who personally supports a six-week ban, told reporters shortly after the House voted to override Cooper’s abortion ban veto that this is just the beginning.
“This represents the legislation that I believe this General Assembly can pass,” Moore said. “I can’t say what’ll happen two years, four years, 10 years from now.”
Berger had a similar comment following the override.
“I think we ended up in a good place for where we are right now,” Berger said.
As for Robinson, who is running for governor, he appeared earlier this year on racist Republican state Rep. Jeff McNeely’s podcast and said that he would ban abortion entirely – with no exceptions – if it were up to him.
“If I had all the power right now, let’s say I was the governor and had a willing legislature, we could pass a bill saying you can’t have an abortion in North Carolina for any reason,” Robinson said.
Lee voted for the 12-week ban, he took some questions from Democrats on the floor of the Senate and expressed his personal beliefs on abortion that seem nearly as extreme as Robinson’s.
“No one is talking about at what point a life begins,” he said. “My wife and I personally believe life begins at conception.”
It may seem “reasonable” for Lee to support abortion at all if he personally believes that life begins at conception, but what should be noted is that – as his party’s leaders have said – this bill is just the beginning.
Now that the Supreme Court has essentially given the legislature carte blanche to gerrymander however they please, Moore’s statement that he “can’t say what’ll happen two years, four years, 10 years from now,” becomes even more frightening. With Republicans able to redraw maps however they want, they will almost certainly gerrymander even greater supermajorities in the general assembly, thus making it far easier to further restrict abortion, or ban it altogether.
Lee has put Republicans’ extreme political agenda before the personal freedoms of North Carolinians. He has shown his unwavering support for government overreach into our personal lives.
New Hanover County residents believe in freedom, including the freedom to decide if and when to start a family. Lee is too extreme for New Hanover County and he must be held accountable.