By Sarah Nagem
Garland Pierce, a Democratic lawmaker with a history of siding with Republicans on controversial issues, said he ultimately voted against a 12-week ban on most abortions in North Carolina after talking to women.
“After talking with some others, particularly women, I just came to the conclusion that it’s the women’s right to choose,” said Pierce, a Baptist preacher who represents Scotland and Hoke counties in the state House.
Pierce said it’s impossible to know what a woman is dealing with psychologically and physically during pregnancy. “Bottom line,” he said, “it’s a decision that a man would never have to make.”
Pierce’s vote wasn’t enough to keep the bill from passing the House earlier this month. It passed the Senate the next day.
Pierce said Tuesday that he expected Republicans, who have a narrow super-majority in the legislature, would have enough votes to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. Hours later, the House and Senate both voted for the override.
Over the weekend, Cooper asked voters to reach out to Republican lawmakers. All it would take, he said, is for one to reject an override. That would mean the previous law would remain in place, allowing abortions up to 20 weeks.
In 2019, Pierce voted with Republicans in favor of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which critics said was a measure meant to restrict abortions. The bill, which was vetoed by Cooper and did not become law, said doctors could be held criminally responsible if they did not provide care to a fetus born alive during an abortion.
Three years earlier, Pierce voted for HB2, the so-called “bathroom bill” that said people must use the restrooms that correlate with the gender they were assigned at birth. Pushback from LGBTQ advocates was swift, and the measure signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory was later repealed.
Pierce, a self-described “country boy” who is a preacher at Bright Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Laurinburg, said he does not take any issue lightly. He told The News & Observer he was still undecided on how he would vote hours before the abortion bill came before the House.
Ultimately, he said, he considered what he had heard from women.
“If I’m wrong on the issue,” he said, “all I can do is just ask God to forgive me.”
Pierce, who has served in the General Assembly for two decades, said he did not know if some supporters in his district would consider his vote on the abortion ban the next time they go to the polls. He won nearly 54% of the vote in November.
“I just try to do the right thing,” he said.