Judge restores North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban

Abortion in North Carolina is no longer legal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, eroding protections in one of the few remaining safe havens. of the South for reproductive freedom.

U.S. District Judge William Osteen has restored a 20-week ban on abortions from taking effect, except in medical emergencies, after he said the US Supreme Court’s decision in June ousting Roe against Wade removed the legal basis for his 2019 ruling that placed the ban on 1973 state law.

His decision defies the recommendations of all parties named in the 2019 lawsuit, including doctors, district attorneys and the attorney general’s office, who earlier this month filed a summary of their claims. Ask him to uphold the ban.

Osteen, who was appointed to this court by Republican President George W. Bush, has no right to waive the rule of law determined by the Supreme Court.

Unable to pass abortion restrictions that would survive Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto, Republican General Assembly leaders urged Osteen to reinstate the ban during a briefing with his friend. court on July 27 after the state’s Democratic attorney general, an outspoken abortion rights advocate, denied their request that he bring the ban before a judge.

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Osteen’s ruling fuels an already contentious year of midterm elections after the Supreme Court ruling brought state politics into the spotlight. Republicans in North Carolina in November will aim to win the five additional seats they need to secure an anti-veto majority in the state legislature as Democrats block challenges by North Carolina. them to preserve Cooper’s power.

Main issue of the campaign

Republican lawmakers say a successful election season could open the door to further abortion restrictions when the General Assembly reconvenes early next year. House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters on July 26 that he wants the legislature to consider banning abortion when an ultrasound first detects fetal heart activity – usually about six weeks after conception. sperm and before some patients know they are pregnant.

Cooper and other Democrats have raised access to abortion as a key campaign issue. The governor signed an executive order on July 6 banning out-of-state abortion patients from being extradited and barring state agencies he controls from assisting other states in prosecuting those undergoing the procedure.

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

Prior to Osteen’s ruling, abortion was legal in North Carolina until the fetus was alive, usually between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, or during certain medical emergencies.

Alison Kiser, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic, said restricting treatment to “a state with a critical access point” like North Carolina would have ripple effects across the region.

Foreign patients tripled

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

However, Republicans say little will change with the 20-week ban being reinstated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, less than one percent of abortions nationwide were performed after 20 weeks of gestation, which is consistent with data from years before abortion access. protected at the federal level.

“Abortion after 20 weeks is rare, but it’s extremely important that everyone has access to this care,” says Kiser. “The two main reasons people need abortion care later in pregnancy is because they have received new medical information or, moreover, they are facing barriers that make their care delayed.”

The main delay, she said, is North Carolina’s mandatory 72-hour waiting period for an abortion after the first doctor’s visit. The General Assembly extended the waiting period in 2015, making North Carolina the fifth state to require a three-day consultation before an abortion – one of the longest in the country.

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