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Judge Eagles blocks two provisions in North Carolina’s new abortion law

by | Oct 2, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

On Saturday U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles issued an 34-page order blocking two provisions of North Carolina’s new abortion law which Republicans secured by overcoming a veto by pro-abortion Gov. Roy Cooper (D).

The first was a requirement that surgical abortions that occur after 12 weeks be performed only in hospitals. That limitation was scheduled to take effect on Sunday, October 1.

In the same preliminary injunction, Judge Eagles “extended beyond her temporary decision in June an order preventing enforcement of a rule that doctors must document the existence of a pregnancy within the uterus before prescribing a medication abortion,” according to Gary Robertson of the Associated Press.

Passed in May, the “Care for Women, Children, and Families Act” would allow for unlimited abortions for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and includes rape or incest exceptions through 20 weeks of pregnancy and exceptions for “life-limiting” fetal anomalies during the first 24 weeks. The existing “life of the mother” exception will carry over.

In their brief lawmakers vigorously defending the Care for Women, Children, and Families Act.

Plaintiffs’ lawsuit “is an overt attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., by seeking to create new constitutional roadblocks to laws that protect women from unsafe abortion practices,” wrote lawyers representing State Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore.

Lawmakers defended the documentation requirement for abortionists administering abortion drugs.

“As the leading cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester, ectopic pregnancies must be identified and treated before they rupture,” lawyers for the lawmakers argued. “The North Carolina General Assembly addressed this danger by requiring doctors to document an intrauterine pregnancy (IUP) prior to giving women drugs that can mask the symptoms of a life-threatening rupture. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also addressed this risk by including a warning on mifepristone’s label that a prescriber must ‘exclude [an ectopic pregnancy] before treatment.’ Codifying FDA’s warning into law is rational.”

The lawmakers brief continued

“The General Assembly also sought to provide safe conditions for women who seek abortions beyond the first trimester. As Plaintiffs have conceded, women who have post-12-week surgical abortions may experience life-threatening complications that require hospitalization. What’s more, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic (PPSAT) admits that it has transferred women from its facilities to hospitals due to complications from post-12-week surgical abortions that it could not treat at its facilities.”

On May 17, when the legislature voted to override Gov. Cooper’s veto, Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said, “Our hope is that this law, which allows for unlimited abortions for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, will save precious lives.”  She added, “We know that 90% of all abortions take place before 12 weeks of pregnancy and we will continue working for the day when all innocent human life is protected.”

North Carolina “has taken steps to protect some babies and North Carolina Right to Life is thankful whenever a child is saved,” said Bill Pincus, M.D., president of North Carolina Right to Life at the time. “The fact remains that 99% of abortions are performed on healthy women, carrying healthy babies and the vast majority of abortions occur before 12 weeks. In every case of an abortion, a baby dies. If abortion is healthcare as they claim, exactly what disease are we treating?”

Robertson wrote, “Short of successful appeals by Republican legislative leaders defending the laws, the order will remain in effect until a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and a physician who performs abortions challenging the sections are resolved.”

Categories: State Legislation