Raleigh, N.C. – Today, a federal judge lifted an injunction blocking North Carolina’s ban on abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, allowing the law to go into effect immediately. The ban had been blocked for more than three years, and the judge lifted the injunction of his own accord, despite the fact that state officials asked the court to keep the law blocked. North Carolinians will now be forced to travel out of state for abortion care after the 20th week of pregnancy or be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will.
The injunction blocking the law, issued in 2019, was lifted by U.S. District Judge William L. Osteen, Jr. who acted without a request from the state or the organizations that challenged the ban. Judge Osteen asked the state of North Carolina and the plaintiffs to file briefs by August 8 on whether the ban should remain blocked in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In the briefs, both state officials and plaintiffs asked the court to keep the law blocked to avoid confusion and devastating harm to patients across North Carolina.
People seeking abortion later in pregnancy often do so because they face delays in accessing abortion care or dangerous complications with their pregnancy. Many need time to secure funds, time off work, transportation, and childcare, and often encounter other barriers in obtaining care, including medically unnecessary, state-mandated restrictions like North Carolina’s 72-hour forced waiting period. Others may seek abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy after learning new information about their own health or the health of the fetus, which may present a serious medical emergency.
Joint statement from Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina:
“Today’s decision to allow North Carolina’s ban to go into effect is an egregious overstep by the court. Despite the fact that this law has long been rightfully blocked, the court reopened the case in an unprompted move that all parties explicitly opposed. This decision to disrupt the abortion access landscape in North Carolina and the surrounding region only worsens the chaos and crisis ensuing across the country in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. People will suffer from this dangerous ban. There is already confusion among providers over whether they can provide care, resulting in pregnant people being turned away in emergency situations. North Carolinians will be forced to cross state lines to access life-saving abortion care while others in the region, who could have previously turned to North Carolina as a critical access point, will now have to travel even farther — if they have the means to do so. Forcing people to travel out of state for essential care, or suffer through the pains of forced pregnancy, puts the health of patients at unnecessary risk. Everyone, everywhere deserves the ability to make personal decisions about their health, their lives, and their futures without political interference.”
The law was challenged in 2016 in Bryant et al. v. Woodall et al. by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of North Carolina on behalf of plaintiffs Amy Bryant, M.D., M.S.C.R.; Beverly Gray, M.D.; Elizabeth Deans, M.D.; and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. A federal court blocked the law from being enforced in 2019, a decision which was upheld by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last year.