Judge reinstates 20-week abortion ban in North Carolina

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Abortions in North Carolina are no longer legal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, eroding protections in one of the South’s few remaining safe havens for freedom. reproductive.

U.S. District Judge William Osteen reinstated a 20-week unenforced abortion ban, with exceptions for urgent medical emergencies, after he said in June US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. wade erased the legal basis of his 2019 ruling which imposed an injunction on the 1973 state law.

Your decision challenge the recommendations from all the parties named in the 2019 case, including doctors, district attorneys and the attorney general’s office, who earlier this month filed briefs requesting that the injunction be left standing.

“Neither this court, nor the public, nor attorneys, nor providers have the right to disregard the rule of law as determined by the Supreme Court,” wrote Osteen, who was appointed to the court by Republican President George W. Bush. .

Unable to pass abortion restrictions that would survive Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, Republican leaders in the General Assembly urged Osteen to restore the ban in a July 27 friend-of-the-court report after the state’s Democratic attorney general, an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, rejected his request to bring the ban himself before a judge.

Osteen’s ruling adds fuel to an already contentious midterm election year after the Supreme Court’s ruling put statewide politics in the spotlight. In November, North Carolina Republicans will try to win the five additional seats they need for a veto-proof supermajority in the state legislature as Democrats avoid their challenges to preserve Cooper’s power.

Republican lawmakers say a successful election season could open the door to more restrictions on abortion when the General Assembly reconvenes early next year. House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters on July 26 that he would like the legislature to consider banning abortions once an ultrasound has been performed. first detects fetal cardiac activity — typically about six weeks after fertilization and before some patients know they are pregnant.

Cooper and other Democrats have already elevated abortion access as a key campaign issue. The governor signed an executive order on July 6 by protecting out-of-state abortion patients from extradition and prohibiting state agencies under his control from helping other states prosecute those who travel for the procedure.

North Carolina has become a haven for residents of its more restrictive neighboring states, such as South Carolina, Georgia Y Tennesseewhere abortions are now illegal after six weeks.

Before Osteen’s ruling, abortions were legal in North Carolina until fetal viability, which generally falls between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, or in certain medical emergencies.

As other southeastern states continue to reduce access to abortion, Alison Kiser, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic said limiting treatment in “a hotspot state” like North Carolina will have a ripple effect across the region.

The number of out-of-state patients at North Carolina Planned Parenthood health centers has tripled since the Supreme Court ruling, Kiser said. So far in August, 36% of abortion patients have traveled from other states, up from 14% in June.

But Republicans argue that little will change with the 20-week ban. In 2019, less than 1% of abortions nationwide were performed after 20 weeks’ gestation, consistent with data from previous years when access to abortion was protected at the federal level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Abortions after 20 weeks are rare, but it’s still incredibly important that people have access to this care,” Kiser said. “The top two reasons people need abortion services later in pregnancy is because they have received new medical information or, even more so now, face barriers that have delayed their care.”

The main delay, he said, is that of North Carolina Mandatory 72 hour waiting period receive an abortion after an initial visit to the doctor. The General Assembly extended the waiting period in 2015, making North Carolina the fifth state to require counseling three days before an abortion, one of the longest waiting periods in the country.

The 2015 bill also amended state law that Osteen reinstated on Wednesday, lowering the criteria for medical emergencies that could warrant an abortion after 20 weeks.


Hannah Schoenbaum is a staff member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/H_Schoenbaum.


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