North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said on Wednesday that he would veto a proposal from fellow Republicans in the state legislature that would tighten regulations on abortion clinics, an unusual move that may kill the proposal for this session.
Republicans tend to be anti-abortion, and Democrats tend to favor abortion rights.
In his statement, McCrory told North Carolina lawmakers that any abortion measures must be drafted so they "are clearly to protect the health and the safety of women."
The legislation McCrory threatened to veto would require abortion clinics in North Carolina to adhere to the same safety standards as centers that do surgery. It also would require a doctor to be present when a woman is given RU-486, a pill to end a pregnancy.
Republicans across the United States have championed similar measures.
If North Carolina lawmakers do not pass the abortion measures this session, which may end as early as next week, they will have to wait until next year to try again.
The battle over the new standards in North Carolina comes as Texas lawmakers work to pass similar legislation this month, sparking protests in both states.
A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked a law in Wisconsin that would have required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. The judge said the law unconstitutionally restricts access to legal abortion while having no medical benefit for women.
In testimony before a state House committee on Tuesday, North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos told lawmakers that a better way to protect the safety of women seeking abortions would be to fund more frequent clinic inspections.
Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, which supports the right to abortion, said she was "encouraged" by McCrory's statement but cautioned against too much optimism.
"The fight is far from over," she said.
North Carolina Right to Life, a group that supports the bill, was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Karen Brooks; Editing by Greg McCune and Lisa Von Ahn)