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War on Women North Carolina Edition: Michele Presnell is the New Rick Santorum

Editor's Note: With 39 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!

While just a few weeks ago, Charlotte, North Carolina was home to the Democratic National Convention — which prominently featured Nancy Keenan from NARAL Pro-Choice America — the state itself is less than fully pro-choice. Abortion has been a hot-button issue in North Carolina for the past few years.

North Carolina

In 2011, Republican state legislators pushed through a bill requiring a 24-hour waiting period, the viewing of ultrasounds, and a lengthy description of the gestational stage of the fetus before an abortion: yet another Women’s Right to Know Act. Governor Beverly Perdue, a Democrat who believes that if Romney wins we are facing a resurgence of coat-hanger abortions in back alleys, vetoed the Women’s Right to Know Act, but her veto was promptly overridden by the Republican-dominated State Legislature. (A judge did block the portion of the law that required women to view the ultrasound.)

Once the bill became law, it joined the state defunding of Planned Parenthood (after which, allegedly, Obama promptly funneled $400,000 into the North Carolina affiliates) and the contentious admission of "Choose Life" license plates into the state registry in the anthology of North Carolina’s legislative war on choice. North Carolina also requires parental consent for minors.

North Carolina is “a state where folks have little patience for the rich man’s tricks,” where old timers are entrenched in love affairs with FDR, and where a tradition of revolution runs rich. Though this would make the state solidly blue by some measures, it means nothing for social issues. In North Carolina, we can’t discount the influence of socially-conservative Democrats whose stance on abortion is more Romney than Roe.

One North Carolinian attendee at the DNC in Charlotte is ideologically against abortion, against marriage equality, and “thinks most law-abiding citizens should be able to own a gun.” But he is more concerned with economic issues: “If I ain’t got no money and no job, abortion and gay rights are going to mean nothing.”

In western North Carolina, out of three districts electing representatives for the State House of Representatives and Senate, only one of the Democratic candidates is openly pro-choice. The other two are anti-abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or health of the mother. Then there is Republican Michele Presnell, a staunchly religious anti-choice politician who believes in Godly omnipotence:

“God made that life, and if you were raped, then I still would not have an abortion. I’d have that child, and if you didn’t want it, there are many places that would take that child. I feel very, very strongly about that.

“They say, ‘Oh what about when the life of the mother is in danger?’ You know what, God can take care of that, too. I don’t believe there’s a situation where if you don’t abort this child, you are going to die too."

Even in the more-urban Winston-Salem area, state legislator wannabes — Democrat and Republican alike — fit the anti-abortion-with-exceptions mold more than not, though most also object to the onerous restrictions placed on women seeking abortions by the 2011 legislations. Planned Parenthood has endorsed Democrat Walter Dalton for governor, since Governor Perdue is resigning at the end of her term. But just as her pro-choice voice could be easily overridden, so too could his.

On the national stage, Republican candidate for U.S. House of Representatives Mark Meadows insists “We need public servants who respect life and our religious freedom,” and accused the POTUS of “requiring all taxpayers to fund abortions.”

Meadows is challenged in his rural Western North Carolina district by Democrat Hayden Rogers, the incumbent’s Chief of Staff who has “proven an effective campaigner,” and the district is expected to be a toss-up. That said, Rogers hasn’t endorsed Obama, so even if he wins this conservative district, it could mean very little in terms of socially liberal policies at the federal level.

As far as social issues go, a blue vote means very little in North Carolina. The state barely went for Obama in 2008, possibly due to a last-minute turnout of young and Hispanic voters. It’s a toss-up as to which candidate will get Tar Heel electoral college votes in November. The Huffington Post has them waffling between yellow and light blue: definitely a state to watch. (And vote in!)

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