State roundup: Abortion-rights groups sue to overturn NC restrictions

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 4, 2020

Associated Press

RALEIGH — Abortion-rights groups and abortion providers on Thursday sued to overturn several restrictions on the procedure approved by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature during the past decade.

The plaintiffs challenge five portions of state laws, including those that mandate a 72-hour waiting period for a woman to receive an abortion and allow only a “qualified physician” to perform the procedure.

They also said a ban on virtual appointments to receive a medication-induced abortion violates the rights of women under the state constitution who can otherwise receive medical treatment through telemedicine.

“This web of abortion restrictions in North Carolina harms our patients, full stop,” said Dr. Katherine Farris, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which is one of the plaintiffs. “These barriers serve no medical purpose. Instead, they interfere in patients’ decisions about how and when to become a parent and ultimately endanger their health and well-being.”

The lawsuit was filed in Wake County court the same day that Vice President Mike Pence participated in a rally for abortion opponents at a Raleigh church that featured several anti-abortion candidates.


Court allows requirement for witness with absentee ballots

RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina judges refused on Thursday to block a witness requirement for mail-in absentee ballots this fall that’s already been scaled down by legislators to address COVID-19 health concerns.

The three judges rejected unanimously a request for an injunction by registered voters in a lawsuit filed in July that challenged the state law that one witness sign a person’s ballot return envelope.

More than 600,000 North Carolina absentee ballot requests — dramatically higher compared to 2016 — already have been received for the November election, as many with health concerns prefer not to vote in person. The first ballots will be mailed to registered voters on Friday.

The voters who sued — each with pre-existing health conditions — said the one-witness requirement demanded close contact that would force them to choose between their health and the right to vote.

The judges wrote Thursday that the plaintiffs were unlikely to win at trial. Even if it appeared they could succeed, the ruling said, making a change would require replacements for ballot envelopes and voter guides that have already cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That would create delays in mailing all ballots.


Bodies of 2 young children found as floodwaters recede

SMITHFIELD (AP) — Authorities have recovered the body of a 4-year-old boy who had been swept away in floodwaters in North Carolina.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported Thursday that the boy’s body was found about 30 yards from where the body of his 5-year-old sister was found on Wednesday.

The children were swept away late Monday after their mother’s car slid into fast-moving water in a creek near the Neuse River.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said the boy, Abraham Martinez Jr., was carried about a quarter mile from the washed-out section of Galilee Road. Rescuers had tried to pull the boy to safety in a swift boat after the wreck, but the boat capsized.

Abraham’s older sister, Alexa, was trapped inside the vehicle and floated out of sight. Their mother, Vanessa Castro, survived.

The brother and sister were discovered a quarter-mile from where the car left the road.


Police say High Point woman was killed by man accused of stalking her

HIGH POINT (AP) — A North Carolina man accused of stalking a coworker shot the woman to death then killed himself, police said.

Brooklyn Williams, 23, and Andre Cousiamono, 27, both died of gunshot wounds to the head Tuesday afternoon, High Point police said in a statement.

Officers were called to a home after someone reported seeing two bodies on the porch, the agency said. Williams and Cousiamono were pronounced dead at the scene.

The two were not involved in a romantic relationship and were described as co-workers, according to officials.

Cousiamono was arrested and released on bond last month on outstanding warrants for felony stalking and cyberstalking, records showed. He also had pending charges of communicating threats.