U.S. District Judge William Osteen has lifted an injunction that had blocked North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban. In a 14-page opinion issued Wednesday, Osteen wrote the injunction is no longer lawful following the Dobbs ruling in June overturning Roe v. Wade:
This court declines the parties’ suggestion to ignore the Supreme Court’s binding constitutional authority. The injunction in this case will be dissolved and dismissed. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-45.1(a), 14-44, and 14-45 will no longer be enjoined by this court and, absent some other authority not previously raised to this court, those statutes are constitutional acts by the State of North Carolina.
The ruling effectively means that abortions will no longer be legal in North Carolina after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Jenny Black, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said the ruling further complicates health decisions for women.
“North Carolinians who need this time-sensitive, life-saving care will be forced to travel out of state,” said Black in a statement. “People across the region who would otherwise travel to North Carolina for abortion care will now be forced to travel even further.”
Governor Roy Cooper said while he disagrees with Osteen’s ruling, the vast majority of patients will still be able to access reproductive health care in North Carolina, and he remains committed to protecting that right.
“Abortion past 20 weeks in pregnancy is exceptionally rare and happens because of a devastating health emergency or diagnosis,” said Cooper in a statement issued late Wednesday. “Denying women necessary medical care in extreme and threatening situations, even if rare, is fundamentally wrong, and we cannot let politicians mislead people about the real world implications of this harmful law.”
Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) called it a sad day for women in North Carolina.
“Our legislature and courts have no business dictating women’s health. We won’t be silent as they continue restricting our rights,” said Ross.
The ACLU of North Carolina also joined in criticizing the decision to reinstate the state’s 20-week abortion ban.
“North Carolina has served as a critical abortion access point for the surrounding region. People will suffer from this cruel ban.”
Duke Health physicians say new abortion restrictions – and those on the horizon – will hurt their ability to treat pregnant patients and are likely to lead to more maternal deaths. For more on that aspect of the story, read this piece from NC Policy Watch’s Joe Killian.
Read the full opinion by U.S. District Judge William Osteen here.