GREENSBORO, N.C. – Women’s health groups today filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn North Carolina’s unconstitutional law that prevents doctors from providing abortion care to a woman after the twentieth week of pregnancy.
The law criminalizes abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy and contains only the narrowest possible exception for immediate medical emergencies. The ban forces physicians caring for a woman with a high-risk pregnancy to delay necessary care until her condition imposes an immediate threat of death or major medical damage. The ban also contains no exceptions for a woman who receives the devastating diagnosis that the fetus will not survive after birth. In other cases, financial hurdles, barriers put in place by politicians, lack of a nearby provider, or clinic closures can make it impossible for a woman to get an abortion as soon as she would like.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of North Carolina abortion providers who say that North Carolina’s law unnecessarily and unconstitutionally prevents them from providing needed care to patients, denies women the ability to make decisions about their own bodies, threatens the health and wellbeing of women, prevents some women with less resources from accessing treatment at all, and prevents doctors from fulfilling their professional responsibilities and obligations as physicians.
The case, Bryant et al. v. Woodall et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“A woman must be able to make health decisions at different points in her pregnancy that are best for her circumstances, including whether to end a pregnancy, without interference from politicians,” said Irena Como, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina. “It is just plain wrong to force a woman in need of medical care to travel long distances out of her home state, or to prevent her from receiving that care altogether.”
“At Planned Parenthood, our top priority is ensuring that women have access to the health care they need, including safe, legal abortion.” Jenny Black, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said. “We are fighting for the patients who rely on us for high quality care and will continue to do so until each North Carolinian has the ability to make health care decisions based on the best advice of their expert medical provider.”
“Health care should be based on a woman’s individual circumstances, not dictated by politicians fixated on interfering in her personal, private decisions,” said Genevieve Scott, Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We vow to fight this unconstitutional ban so North Carolina women can get safe, legal, compassionate abortion services.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is unconstitutional to ban abortion before viability. In 2016, North Carolina amended its law to further narrow health exceptions to the 20-week ban — following a five year period when the state enacted thirteen abortion restrictions.
Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States. One out of three U.S. women who has reached the age of 45 has had at least one abortion and approximately 61% of women obtaining abortions already have one child or more.