RALEIGH, N.C. — Abortion providers in North Carolina and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective today filed a motion in the lawsuit previously challenging several medically unnecessary abortion restrictions that have pushed abortion out of reach for many in the state and stigmatized essential health care. Today’s filing asks the court to grant a partial preliminary injunction while the full case, which was filed in 2020, proceeds in court. If granted, an injunction would block North Carolina’s ban on qualified advanced practice clinicians (APCs), such as physician assistants, certified nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners, from providing medication abortion.
In the months since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and triggered a public health crisis, hundreds of patients from neighboring states have been forced to travel to North Carolina for abortion care. Despite abortion providers’ efforts to increase available appointments and expand access for patients, the dramatic influx in out-of-state patients has led to long wait times for North Carolinians needing care. Forced to delay their care, those patients may in turn have to travel further to get the abortion care they need — a costly endeavor that is already out of reach for many — or forego care altogether and carry a pregnancy against their will. The risks of being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term do not fall equally across North Carolinians—they are worse for those struggling with poverty and those in rural areas. Risks also fall disproportionately on Native American and Black women, who suffer significantly higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidity. According to North Carolina providers, permitting qualified APCs to provide medication abortion would dramatically expand abortion access to North Carolinians and allow more patients to avoid those harms.
“The prohibition of qualified advanced practice clinicians providing medication abortion is completely arbitrary, medically unnecessary, and profoundly limits access to abortion in North Carolina,” said Anne Logan Bass, a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “Certified nurse midwives and nurse practitioners like myself are highly trained medical professionals who are qualified to provide this care and already do in other states — just not in North Carolina. Today, we are asking the court to help alleviate this health crisis by removing an unnecessary barrier to care so that more North Carolinians can access a full range of reproductive health services, including time-sensitive abortion care, in their own state.”
“The ability to make decisions about one’s own body, health, and future is a fundamental human right,” said Jaclyn Maffetore, staff attorney for ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “The state’s unjustified ban on advanced practice clinicians providing medication abortion deprives many North Carolinians of this right by arbitrarily restricting access to care. Attacks on abortion disproportionately impact those who are already marginalized, limiting health care access for our most vulnerable community members. By asking the court to immediately block this restriction, we further our fight for reproductive justice in our state.”
“We hope the Court will step in to put an end to North Carolina’s medically unnecessary ban on qualified medical professionals providing essential abortion services to their patients,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. “The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has created a public health crisis across the country, and the impacts are on full display in North Carolina, where wait-times have skyrocketed and many people have not been able to access the essential care they need. Let’s be clear: Abortion is still legal in North Carolina, but a politically motivated abortion restriction has created an insurmountable barrier for too many pregnant people in the state and across the region. The impacts of this crisis will fall hardest on Black and brown people in this state, who already face hurdles to exercising their bodily autonomy because of centuries of systemic racism in our health care and legal systems. We’re fighting for a North Carolina where everyone has the power to control their own bodies, including whether to have an abortion. And we won’t stop fighting until that vision is a reality.”
Leading medical experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Public Health Association agree that APCs are qualified to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion. APCs are already authorized to treat patients experiencing a miscarriage and those needing intrauterine device (IUD) insertion by administering the same medications as those used in abortion care. APCs are also authorized to regularly prescribe medications comparable to or higher risk than those used for medication abortion, including menopause hormone replacements, pre-exposure HIV prophylaxis, and treatment of pelvic infections, and perform complex medical procedures like endometrial biopsies. Singling out medication abortion — a safe, standard part of reproductive health care — arbitrarily harms patients in North Carolina by limiting their access to safe, essential care for no medical reason.
Access to abortion is already limited in North Carolina due to decades of political attacks. 91 percent of North Carolina counties do not have an abortion provider, disproportionately harming rural communities.
The plaintiffs in the case are Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, SisterSong, three doctors, and one advanced practice clinician. They are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, and Goodwin.