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Restrictions disproportionately impact Black North Carolinians and people in rural areas

RALEIGH — Abortion providers in North Carolina and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective today filed litigation challenging several medically unnecessary abortion restrictions that have pushed abortion out of reach in the state and stigmatized essential health care. 

Decades of attacks on reproductive rights and health care access by state legislators have already led to provider shortages and inadequate public health infrastructure in the state, with the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbating these issues. The discriminatory policies violate civil and reproductive rights and disproportionately impact North Carolina’s communities of color, particularly Black communities, as well as rural communities.  

The restrictions being challenged include: 

  • A licensing scheme that arbitrarily singles out abortion providers with medically unnecessary and onerous requirements  

  • A ban on qualified advanced practice clinicians (APCs), such as physician assistants, certified nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners, from providing abortions 

  • A ban on the use of telehealth for medication abortion

  • A requirement that providers deliver state-mandated biased counseling with no medical benefit to their patients 

  • A mandatory delay for patients seeking an abortion of at least 72 hours after they receive state-mandated information.

“This web of abortion restrictions in North Carolina harms our patients, full stop,” said Dr. Katherine Farris, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic’s Chief Medical Officer. "These barriers serve no medical purpose. Instead, they interfere in patients’ decisions about how and when to become a parent and ultimately endanger their health and well-being. Each person deserves access to quality, affordable abortion in their community, provided with dignity and respect, and we will continue to fight for our patients, no matter what.”

“People aren’t truly free if we can’t make our own decisions about our bodies, our lives, and our futures,” said Elizabeth Barber, Reproductive Freedom Fellow at the ACLU of North Carolina. “Access to healthcare should be safe, affordable, and free from government interference. We are hopeful that the court will uphold the basic rights of North Carolinians by removing barriers that currently restrict access to safe reproductive healthcare and tie the hands of medical professionals who should be free to provide the best care for their patients.” 

“Our patients deserve to access abortion without having to jump through the many hoops state legislators have implemented,” said Kelly Flynn, President & CEO of the A Woman’s Choice clinics. “These restrictions force our patients to travel long distances and delay their care, and they force us, the providers, to give them medically unnecessary, biased information about abortion. We’re ready to fight in court to strike down these harmful restrictions.”

Access to abortion is limited in North Carolina as a result of decades of political attacks that reached a fever pitch under former Governor Pat McCrory. During the McCrory-Forest administration, 11 abortion facilities were shut down, leaving 91 percent of North Carolina counties without an abortion provider and disproportionately hurting rural communities. And politicians showed they’d stop at nothing to chip away at abortion access even further. Then-Speaker of the House Thom Tillis infamously added numerous abortion restrictions into a motorcycle safety bill as a backdoor attempt to quietly erode reproductive rights on the final day of the 2013 legislative session. 

The plaintiffs in the case are Planned Parenthood South Atlantic; SisterSong; A Woman’s Choice of Charlotte, Inc.; A Woman’s Choice of Greensboro, Inc.; A Woman’s Choice of Raleigh, Inc; 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, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

A copy of the complaint can be found at: https://www.acluofnorthcarolina.org/sites/default/files/9.2.20_nc_complaint_final_sig_stamped.pdf

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