A few years ago Republican Senator Stan Bingham showed up at a news conference about election law reform to show his support for the legislation proposed by progressive Democratic Senator Ellie Kinnaird.
Bingham was asked if was worried about what the leaders of the Republican Senate Caucus would think of his pledge to support Kinnaird and he said that he didn’t come to Raleigh to be told how to vote by anybody.
But he was told Thursday and he listened. The result is that North Carolina now has one of the most extreme anti-choice laws in the nation that forces women, including victims of rape and incest, to listen to right-wing propaganda before they can access legal abortion services.
Bingham is pro-choice and outspokenly so. When the intrusive and offensive “Right to Know Act” came before the Senate earlier this year, Bingham not only was the lone Republican to vote against it, he told reporters after the vote that believed it was best to leave it up to women “to make decisions about their own bodies.”
With Republican Senator Richard Stevens out of town, Bingham was the key vote in the attempt to override Governor Beverly Perdue’s veto of the bill he had voted against. When the Senate session convened at just after 10:00 Thursday morning, Bingham was in his seat waiting for the debate.
Senate Rules Chair Tom Apadoca immediately called for a recess and the Republican Senators caucused privately in a room just a few steps from the Senate chamber.
When the session reconvened 45 minutes later Bingham was nowhere to be found. Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton said “I think I said before, but if I didn’t Senator Bingham has an excused absence.”
Bingham told Greensboro News & Record reporter Mark Binker that the vote on the anti-choice bill had become a caucus issue where members were expected to vote the party line. Bingham instead left the building.
But his absence made it possible for the Republicans to override Perdue’s veto and now the radical “Right to Know Act” is the law.
Bingham told the News & Record that it was the first time he had buckled to pressure from his caucus and it’s a tragedy for women in North Carolina that this is the time he chose to abandon his well-known independent streak.
Bingham’s decision to put politics above his deeply held principles earned widespread criticism and it was well-deserved but he is not alone. Republican Senate leaders who like hold themselves out as moderate business-friendly conservatives also voted for the radical legislation.
They are right-wing extremists too, every one of them, no matter how hard they try to convince people otherwise. Not to mention the Republicans in the House like Majority Leader Paul Stam, who has spent his legislative career trying to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.
North Carolina now has one of the most extreme invasions of the relationship between a woman and her doctor in the nation. Even Texas has an exception in the law for victims of rape and incest, a point which didn’t seem to faze the zealots in the General legislature here.
Shame on Senator Bingham for not standing up to them. And shame on this General Assembly for once again catering to the extreme and radical right and running over women in North Carolina in the process.