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June 16, 2023

GREENSBORO — North Carolina health care providers filed a lawsuit today challenging several provisions in Senate Bill 20, a sweeping law that severely restricts access to abortion from the earliest stages of pregnancy and bans care after 12 weeks in nearly all circumstances. The case comes one month after the North Carolina General Assembly rushed S.B. 20 through both chambers and overrode a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper to put it into law. The law — which was drafted and passed without any opportunity to amend — is scheduled to take effect on July 1.

The lawsuit filed today asks a federal court to address and clarify several provisions within the law, including:

  • A provision that appears to prevent providers from providing medication abortion after 10 weeks of pregnancy, despite another provision of  S.B. 20 that explicitly states medication abortion is lawful through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy;
  • A mandate that survivors of sexual assault obtain abortions in a hospital after 12 weeks of pregnancy under exceptions for rape or incest, despite the overwhelming safety of abortion care and well-trained medical professionals who can effectively provide care in a clinic setting as they have done for decades;
  • A provision requiring certain information be provided to the patient 72 hours before the abortion with no exception for medical emergencies, despite other sections of S.B. 20 which outline a medical emergency exception to the 72-hour mandatory delay; and
  • A prohibition on advising how a person can access an abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy, possibly preventing health care providers from helping patients access lawful care out of state in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Statement from Dr. Beverly A. Gray, plaintiff and North Carolina physician:
“Given the hurried passage of this bill without guidance from the medical community, S.B. 20 lacks clarity and asks patients and health care providers to overcome impossible hurdles to obtain and provide care. These hurdles are not based in science but are unreasonable and will make it virtually impossible for many people to receive abortion care in our state.”

Statement from Kristi Graunke, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina:
“In a rush to ban abortion and take away our fundamental rights, the General Assembly passed a hastily drafted 45-page bill that is full of dangerous abortion restrictions. The General Assembly has once again shown us that they put politics before people by cavalierly disregarding the suffering of people most impacted by this sloppily drafted bill. Many of the provisions contradict each other, are confusing, and will harm even those patients who are supposed to have lawful access to abortion under the bill. Ironically, politicians pushed the law through its first chamber vote in just 48 hours, shorter than the 72-hour mandatory waiting period to access abortion. We hope the court will mitigate the harm and confusion created by this horrible bill.”

Statement from Jenny Black, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic:
“Starting July 1, patients and health care providers in North Carolina will be forced to endure the harms of this sweeping abortion ban and its tangled web of medically unnecessary, inconsistent, and dangerous restrictions on care. Senate Bill 20 is much more than a ban on abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy — it contains a multitude of new restrictions that make it difficult to get an abortion across the board. Thousands of people are depending on us to fight for their ability to get the health care they need and deserve, and that is what we are doing today in court. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic remains committed to providing abortion care to as many people as possible within the unjust and inhumane confines of this law.”

In addition to the lawsuit, on June 13, health care providers filed a request to modify the permanent injunction in a previously litigated case to clarify the type of medical professional who can provide patients seeking care with the information mandated by the state at the patient’s initial visit. In Stuart v. Loomis, a district court judge ordered that either a qualified medical professional or a physician may provide the state-mandated information under the 2011 Woman’s Right to Know Act. The language interpreted from the 2011 law is identical to a provision included in Senate Bill 20. The recent filing asks the court to reopen the 2011 case and clarify that after S.B. 20 takes effect, the same qualified medical professionals can continue providing the state-mandated information to patients under the court’s order.

This case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America on behalf of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Beverly A. Gray, M.D.

This release can be found online here.

A copy of the complaint for the new lawsuit can be found online here.

A copy of the motion to modify the injunction in a prior case can be found online here.