GREENSBORO — Today, a federal judge blocked two provisions of North Carolina’s Senate Bill 20, a sweeping law that severely restricts access to abortion and bans care after the 12th week of pregnancy in nearly all circumstances. The order issued today ensures that abortion providers can continue to provide medication abortion to patients seeking this care at very early stages of their pregnancy. It also ensures that survivors of sexual assault and patients with diagnoses of a “life-limiting anomaly” may continue to obtain abortion care in a clinic setting after 12 weeks of pregnancy and will not be forced to seek care in a hospital.
In today’s decision, Chief Judge Eagles found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their case against both of the challenged provisions. In reference to the provision requiring that patients obtain an abortion in a hospital after 12 weeks of pregnancy—even though the same procedures are permitted for miscarriage management in an outpatient clinic—she stated, “The plaintiffs' evidence establishes without contradiction that there is no rational medical reason for this distinction, and the intervenors have offered no explanation or evidence—that is, no rational basis—for this differing treatment."
Statement from Jenny Black, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic:
“We will always fight for every inch of ground so that as many people as possible can get the health care they need in North Carolina. The court’s decision recognizes that abortion is health care and that there is no medical reason to deny even more patients access to this safe, compassionate, evidence-based care. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic remains committed to helping every patient navigate the unjust and inhumane confines of this law, and we encourage anyone in need of abortion care to contact us as soon as possible.”
Statement from Dr. Beverly A. Gray, plaintiff and North Carolina physician:
“We applaud the court’s decision to block a few of the onerous barriers to essential reproductive health care that have no basis in medicine. Despite today’s decision, North Carolina’s 12-week abortion ban has created unnecessary hurdles to obtain care, with providers across the state scrambling to support pregnant women who now face the nightmare of government-imposed forced pregnancy. We will continue to work in our communities to get people the care they need in every way we can under the cruel reality SB 20 has created. We hope for a day when the rights of our patients are restored.”
Statement from Kristi Graunke, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina:
“We are grateful for the court’s decision to block some of the harmful, unconstitutional provisions of this dangerous bill. In light of the already severe restrictions to bodily autonomy and reproductive rights in North Carolina that this bill has implemented, we’re committed to protecting abortion access in any way we can. North Carolinians deserve the right to make decisions about their own bodies, full stop. Lawmakers have gone out of their way to create additional barriers to abortion access for victims of sexual assault and those seeking early abortion care, despite no medical evidence that these restrictions will make patients safer. This decision is one step forward in fighting back against these harmful bans.”
In North Carolina, most people who need abortion care after the 12th week of pregnancy are already forced to decide between traveling out of state, self-managing their abortion outside of the health care system, or carrying a pregnancy to term against their will. Senate Bill 20 has made abortion difficult to access even before 12 weeks of pregnancy by requiring that patients make multiple in-person trips to a clinic to receive an abortion, in addition to other barriers to care.
In-clinic abortions are extremely effective and safe, and complications from a procedure are incredibly rare—and rarer than for other outpatient procedures like vasectomies and colonoscopies. Abortion providers and medical experts agree there is no medical reason to require that abortions be provided in hospitals.
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.