A new North Carolina abortion law went into effect Saturday, banning most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, restricting abortion-related medications and creating new regulatory requirements for abortion clinics.
A lawsuit brought against the law by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Beverly Gray, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke, largely failed after many potential issues with the law were resolved by last-minute changes signed by Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday. However, the judge temporarily blocked one provision of the law that requires physicians prescribing medicine for abortions to document the existence of a pregnancy.
People seeking abortion services outside the new law’s parameters can still legally travel out of state to do so. Abortion is currently legal until viability in Virginia and up to 22 weeks in South Carolina under a temporary order by a state judge.
With the law now in effect, most clinics in North Carolina will continue to offer their regular services while abiding by the new restrictions.
New restrictions for patients
The law’s most significant change is in Section 1, which moves the cutoff for most abortions from 20 to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Between 12 and 20 weeks, abortion is allowed in cases of rape or incest, and before 24 weeks, abortion is only allowed in cases of a "life-threatening anomaly" in the fetus.
The law also redefines “abortion” to include “abortion-inducing drugs.” Advertising or shipping these medications is now unlawful, with fines of up to $5,000. These regulations may make it harder for women to access drugs for other conditions. The law specifically names methotrexate and misoprostol as “abortion-inducing,” despite their common use as treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and stomach ulcers, respectively.
New restrictions for providers
The law also creates new requirements for physicians. If a physician performs a legal abortion after 12 weeks, they must report their reasoning and an ultrasound image of the fetus to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. This is in addition to new rules that require detailed information like the patient's state residence, age, race, number of prior pregnancies and pre-existing medical conditions to be reported to the NCDHHS for any abortion.
Physicians must now provide patients with a consent form for surgical and medical abortions, which must be completed and signed for the patient to indicate informed consent.
The new law requires that abortions after 12 weeks be performed in a hospital and raises the annual abortion clinic license fee by $100 to $850.
“As a result of the legal changes, we are having to physically move to a floor in DUH within the next week,” wrote Sally Howland, a nurse clinician who coordinates the Duke University Hospital Family Planning Services Center clinic, in an email to The Chronicle.
The law includes provisions related to contraceptives and foster care. Section 4 of the law appropriates $3.5 million every two years for increasing access to contraceptives for "underserved, uninsured, or medically indigent patients." Section 6 increases state-provided foster care assistance.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services/Division of Public Health also created a Reproductive Health Resource Directory in compliance with the new law. These resources include financial resources, healthcare resources and guides to adoption centers and pregnancy resource centers.
Many of the resources listed do not offer abortion services.
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Audrey Patterson is a Trinity sophomore and local and national news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Jothi Gupta is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.