The lawsuit against North Carolina’s 12-week abortion ban, explained

<p>Pro-choice protester holds sign that reads "keep abortion safe and legal."&nbsp;</p>

Pro-choice protester holds sign that reads "keep abortion safe and legal." 

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Beverly Gray, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke, filed a lawsuit on Friday requesting a federal judge to block North Carolina’s 12-week abortion ban and declare it unconstitutional. 

The new law, also known as the Care for Women, Children and Families Act, was passed in May after Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly voted to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the Act. It was passed in about 48 hours after it was introduced, and no amendments were allowed on the Act, which will take effect on July 1. 

“The time between S.B.20’s introduction of abortion restrictions and its passage was less than 72 hours, which is the mandatory waiting period for abortion in North Carolina,” the lawsuit reads.

The law prohibits abortions after 12 weeks, but allows exceptions for up to 20 weeks for cases of rape and incest, up to 24 weeks for “life-limiting” fetal anomalies and has no limit if a physician deems a mother’s life is in danger due to the pregnancy. It also requires in-person doctor visits to perform abortions with a pill past 10 weeks.

The judge may place a temporary injunction on the law, which could prevent it from being enforced until the case is settled. They can also permanently block certain provisions of the bill they deem unconstitutional. 

The lead attorney for the lawsuit is Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. There are multiple named defendants in the suit, including North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and Kody Kinsley, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. 

The lawsuit alleges that the act contains “numerous inconsistencies and irrationalities,” calling its requirements for medication abortion “nonsensical.” 

For example, the lawsuit notes that one of the act’s provisions state that abortion is lawful “during the first 12 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy when a medical abortion is procured,” but another section requires healthcare providers to ensure that the “gestational age of the unborn child is no more than 70 days,” equating to 10 weeks. The lawsuit argues that the contradiction makes the legality of abortions performed from weeks 10 through 12 unclear. 

“Many of these provisions are going to constrain an already very constrained abortion ecosystem in this state,” Planned Parenthood South Atlantic CEO Jenny Black told the Associated Press. “And so we really thought it was important that we challenged the elements of the law that do that.”

The lawsuit highlights the 72 hours waiting period provisions, stating that it is unclear when physicians should restart the waiting period or proceed with the procedure before disclosing certain information, such as insurance, that takes longer to obtain. The waiting period section of the law also does not include emergency exception policies that have previously existed in North Carolina. 

Furthermore, one provision of the act makes it unlawful to “advise” a miscarriage or abortion after 12 weeks. 

“It is unclear whether this provision of the Act is intended to bar helping people access lawful abortion outside of North Carolina,” the lawsuit reads. “If it is interpreted in this manner, it would violate the First Amendment.”

The lawsuit also challenges one of the law’s provisions for being “irrational,” as it prohibits abortions for rape or incest past 12 weeks from being performed in “any facility other than a hospital.” The lawsuit claims that this restriction has no impact on “increasing abortion safety” and will only further harm sexual assault and incest survivors. 

Kinsley and Stein’s offices, two defendants in the case, told the AP that they are reviewing the lawsuit. 

Audrey Patterson profile
Audrey Patterson | Local and National News Editor

Audrey Patterson is a Trinity sophomore and local and national news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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