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N.C. Abortion Law Sparks Protest; Governor Responds With Cookies


A plate of cookies, chocolate chip cookies is normally a welcome thing unless you're protesting outside the governor's mansion in Raleigh, North Carolina. On Monday night, Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed into law a bill that imposes strict new rules on the state's abortion clinics. And when protesters gathered the next day, the governor himself, flanked by four security guards, delivered a plate of cookies to one of them.

To McCrory's supporters, the gesture was a peace offering. To the protesters, most of whom were women, it was patronizing. Mary Curtis has been following the story. She's a contributor to the She the People blog at The Washington Post, and she's based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mary, welcome to the program.

MARY CURTIS: Thank you.

CORNISH: So give us more of a backstory here. What was going on in front of the governor's mansion?

CURTIS: Well, a group of protesters, primarily women, some men, had gathered. Many of the women dressed in '50s-style housewife outfits to make the symbolic gesture that the governor wanted them to go back. And he kind of played into this particular scenario by coming out with a plate of chocolate chip cookies. And he gestured to one woman and said, these are for you, God bless you. She was quite surprised. And later, the cookies were returned on the plate untouched with a little note saying, we want women's health care, not cookies.

CORNISH: One poll has 47 percent of North Carolinians against this new abortion law, 34 percent in favor, and there were protests throughout the passage and the signing. I mean, how has the governor handled this opposition more generally?

CURTIS: He hasn't really engaged with a lot of the folks who are protesting. I believe they would have welcomed if he came out and talked about his policies and explained the policies and also explained why he signed them despite the fact that when he was running for governor, he was directly asked the question if he would sign more restrictive abortion legislation if he were elected, and he said no. So I think people would welcome the debate, but the fact that he just came out, did not speak with them and gave them cookies, I think that's what upset a lot of people.

CORNISH: So tell us more about Pat McCrory. He was the former mayor of Charlotte and was at one time, as you talked about, sort of considered a moderate on some issues. How is that perception changing?

CURTIS: Well, Pat McCrory has always been a Republican. He was more of a moderate, and there are a lot of Democrats and independents who voted for him. And I believe a lot of folks feel that he's not governing as advertised, and it's not just this issue. There's Republican super majorities in the State House and Senate and a Republican governor, so they've been able to pass a wave of legislation from voter ID to cutting unemployment benefits. He turned down the Medicaid funds and the Affordable Care Act, you know, cutting some education funding, discarding the earned income tax credit.

CORNISH: It's not really about the cookies, right? I mean, it seems like, is this a reflection on, really, a divided North Carolina electorate that has Republicans in charge right now?

CURTIS: I think, basically, one is the style of his answer. Folks wanted to talk with him, and they felt that the gesture of bringing out cookies was condescending. But in a way, that gesture was symbolic of the fact that indeed North Carolina is being governed as a hard red state, but it's voted in presidential elections as more of a purple state. So I think it's both the fact that the state is divided and the fact that so much legislation has been pushed so quickly.

CORNISH: Mary Curtis, thank you so much for speaking with us.

CURTIS: Thank you.

CORNISH: That's Mary Curtis. She's a contributor to the She the People blog at The Washington Post. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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