News, Trump Administration

Abortion rights update: NC laws challenged; Pence visits Raleigh; stay of Trump gag rule upheld

Yesterday was a busy day in the debate over reproductive rights.

New NC lawsuit

Here in North Carolina, abortion rights advocates and providers brought suit in state court challenging the constitutionality of several components of North Carolina’s restrictive abortion rule structure. This is from a release distributed by the plaintiffs:

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. A copy of the legal challenge can be found at http://bit.ly/PPSAvMoore.

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.

Pence visit

The challenge came on the same day that as Vice President Mike Pence visited Raleigh to participate in anti-abortion activities. At one event, Pence reiterated his long-espoused opposition to abortion rights and claimed that abortion opponents were making progress in their goal of ending abortion in the U.S. “Life is winning in America,” Pence told the audience.

In anticipation of Pence’s visit, NARAL Pro-Choice NC executive director Tara Romano issued a statement in which she condemned Pence’s “long-established history of pushing extreme anti-abortion policies” and noted that one of the venues on his agenda was a “fake clinic” that exists “solely to coerce, shame, intimidate, and deceive people out of accessing abortion, even if that is what the person has decided is best for themselves and their families.”

Trump rule struck down

Meanwhile, in Richmond, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a stay on a Trump administration rule that seeks to bar reproductive health clinics from making abortion referrals. This is from a Reuters report:

A divided federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a Maryland federal judge’s injunction barring the Trump administration from enforcing, in that state, a rule withholding federal family planning funding from clinics that provide abortion referrals.

Writing for a 9-6 majority of the en banc 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Circuit Judge Stephanie Thacker found that the 2019 rule “was promulgated in an arbitrary and capricious manner because it failed to recognize and address the ethical concerns of literally every major medical organization in the country,” affirming an injunction won by the city of Baltimore.

Click here to read the opinion. It seems likely the issue will find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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