NC abortion restrictions begin Saturday, with one requirement in the new law put on hold

By: - June 30, 2023 2:24 pm
a photo of the L. Richardson Preyer Federal Courthouse

L. Richardson Preyer Federal Courthouse in Greensboro (Photo: Lynn Bonner)

A federal judge decided that North Carolina legislators’ bill resolving discrepancies and inconsistencies in the new law restricting abortion adequately addressed many of the problems abortion providers identified in a lawsuit this month.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles on Friday issued a 14-day freeze on the requirement for ultrasound evidence documenting the location of early pregnancies. Most of the rest of the law that bans most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy goes into effect Saturday. 

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and a Duke University OB/GYN sued to stop the law from taking effect, at least temporarily.  Eagles said at a Wednesday hearing she would not go that far.  

Starting Saturday, abortions after 12-week of pregnancy will be limited to victims of rape or incest, cases of “life-limiting fetal anomalies,” or emergencies. 

Eagles put a temporary freeze on the requirement that doctors document with ultrasounds that pregnancies are located in the uterus before prescribing abortion pills.  At the Wednesday hearing, Planned Parenthood lawyer Peter Im said sometimes ultrasounds cannot detect early pregnancies, NC Newsline reported. 

Ellis Boyle, a lawyer for Republican legislative leaders, said ultrasound proof was necessary to make sure abortion pills weren’t given to women with ectopic pregnancies, when fertilized eggs implants outside the uterus. 

It is in the public interest to preserve the status quo on the ultrasound question until all the parties can provide more information, Eagles wrote.

In her order, Eagles said the bill the legislature passed this week, and which Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law on Thursday, took care of the following problems with the original law:

  • Makes it clear a legal abortion is not fetal homicide.
  • Says abortion pills can be prescribed through 12 weeks, clearing up a discrepancy. 
  • Says medical emergencies are exempt from the 72-hour waiting period and the 72-hour clock does not restart if the name of the provider is unknown or changes. 
  • Lifts the requirement for providers to tell  patients whether insurance will cover their care. 
  • Lifts the requirement for providers to file complete reports for minors within three days. 

The legislature’s amendments that Republicans said make it clear that it is okay to help people obtain legal, out-of-state abortions corrected enough of the ambiguities and First Amendment issues raised the lawsuit that a temporary restraining order isn’t needed on that question, Eagles wrote. 

One of the issues abortion providers raised in their suit will be handled later, as both sides agreed, because it does not take effect until Oct. 1.

The law provides that abortions performed after 12 weeks must be obtained in hospitals rather than clinics. 

Abortions for victims of rape and incest will remain legal through 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The abortion providers lawsuit says that the hospital requirement “is an irrational limitation on one of the safest medical procedures” and “will further harm the survivors of sexual assault without increasing safety.”

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Lynn Bonner
Lynn Bonner

Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner covers the state legislature and politics, as well as elections, the state budget, public and mental health, safety net programs and issues of racial equality.