• 70°

NC’s 20-week abortion ban ruled unconstitutional

By Emery P. Dalesio

Associated Press

RALEIGH — A federal judge has declared unconstitutional a state law banning women from having abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy except in a medical emergency.

The decision Monday by U.S. District Judge William Osteen in Greensboro gave state legislators 60 days before his ruling takes effect to allow them to amend abortion restrictions or appeal his ruling to a higher court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has protected abortion as a constitutional right until a fetus has developed enough to live outside the mother’s womb.

The judge noted that North Carolina’s own medical expert conceded that’s almost never possible until the 22nd week of gestation.

The law was challenged in 2016 shortly after lawmakers narrowed abortions after the 20th week of gestation so that they were only allowed if the mother faces a risk of death or serious and irreversible harm from some medical emergency.

The 2016 changes also “imposed substantial reporting obligations on abortion providers for any abortion performed after 16 weeks, expanded the universe of medical facilities from which information is collected, restricted the type of doctor who may perform an abortion in the state, and lengthened the informed consent waiting period from 24 to 72 hours,” Osteen wrote in his ruling.

The revised law also meant that abortions were no longer allowed for medical conditions that cause gradual health damage but never reached a specific point to make them immediately necessary, Osteen said.

While North Carolina has not prosecuted anyone for an illegal abortion for more than 40 years, that could change in the future, Osteen said. He wrote that the state’s “strident defense” of the lawsuit as well as a wave of similarly worded laws in Wisconsin, Iowa, Arkansas and other states suggests officials haven’t disavowed future prosecutions under the 20-week ban.

Some states have gone further this month. Mississippi and Kentucky outlawed most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. A similar bill passed the Georgia Senate last week and now goes back to the House to approve changes. It is backed by Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp.

The North Carolina lawsuit was one of three filed weeks after President Donald Trump’s election that challenged laws viewed as unconstitutional restrictions. Laws in Missouri and Alaska were also challenged at the same time by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The Alaska lawsuit was dropped after the state medical board adopted new regulations for abortions after the first trimester.

In Missouri, one of the state’s two abortion clinics closed in October after federal appeals court judges ruled that the state could enforce a requirement that doctors must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals before they can perform abortions.

North Carolina’s top Republican legislative leaders had no immediate reaction to the decision. Spokesmen for Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said they needed more time to review the ruling.

An attorney for the ACLU’s North Carolina chapter said Osteen’s decision affirms that people have a constitutional right to make their own decisions about their pregnancy.

“North Carolina’s ban was written by politicians to intimidate doctors and interfere in a woman’s personal medical decisions,” attorney Irena Como said. “Important medical decisions throughout different points of a woman’s pregnancy, including whether to have an abortion, must be left to the woman and her doctor — not politicians.”



Gov. Cooper announces end to curfew, changes to restrictions affecting bars, high school sports


Blotter: Two charged after call about package


Salisbury Police investigating two shootings


Chase involving Kernersville man ends in woods behind Carson High School

News Main

North Rowan girls end season with playoff loss to Murphy


Rowan-Salisbury EC department plunges in place after raising $1,300 for Special Olympics


Tiger Woods injured in car crash, has surgery on legs


Local stakeholders set goals, direction to tackle city’s housing issues


RSS board talks future of Henderson Independent School


One new COVID-19 death, 23 new positives reported Tuesday


Concord to create fallen officer memorial featuring Rowan native Shuping


20-year-old man faces rape charges


Blotter: Man charged after shooting gun during argument


UPDATE: Missing Salisbury man found


RSS board votes to use upset bid process on Faith property


Committee to soon accept artist applications for ‘Paint the Pavement’ project


RSS board votes to send elementary students to in-person classes four days per week


County to administer nearly 1,700 vaccines this week


Political Notebook: Rep. Howard named ‘hospitality champion’ by North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association


Blotter: Gunshot fired into home on North Oakhurst Drive


Teenager reported missing in Salisbury


‘Everybody needs an Aunt Libby:’ Family celebrates 100th birthday of Rockwell doctor Elizabeth Lombard

Ask Us

Ask Us: Why is Rowan EMS no longer transporting some patients outside of county?


Blotter: Feb. 21