U.S. House Judiciary Committee debates abortion in advance of landmark court ruling

Photo gallery: Hundreds gather in Raleigh for abortion rights, preservation of Roe

Hundreds braved thunderstorms Saturday to gather at the state capitol and rally for abortion rights. Demonstrators in Raleigh protested the anticipated overturning of Roe v. Wade and the threat of new anti-abortion legislation at the state level. Similar ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ events were held across the state and nation.

Across the street four men mounted a counter protest.

Top stories: From Roe to Leandro, a week of landmark decisions before our courts

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10. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

 

‘I have never known a world in which we didn’t have the right to choose.’

Senate Dems: Women have the power to fight against future reproductive restrictions

Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham)

“I am 38 years old, and I have never known a world in which we didn’t have the right to choose.”

Senator Natalie Murdock (D-Durham) said Wednesday that she has serious concerns that that autonomy over one’s own body may be at risk if the U.S. Supreme Court moves forward and strikes down Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old ruling that guarantees the right to obtain an abortion.

“At this point it seems much more like an illusion than a reality to say we truly believe in freedom after this draft opinion was leaked,” Murdock said.

Murdock said in 2013 the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly sought to restrict women’s reproductive rights in a motorcycle safety bill.

“But women fought back. Hundreds of women from across the state and allies protested at the state capitol to signal they would not stand down and they would not sit back while we pass these oppressive laws in the heat of the night.”

Murdock believes that same level of political engagement will be necessary to block the next round of anticipated anti-abortion bills.

“To be clear, if we do not elect pro-choice Democrats in November, North Carolina will become the next Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Kentucky,” said Murdock. “Unfortunately, I’m losing count of the states working endlessly, around the clock to restrict access to reproductive healthcare.”

Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake), who is running for Congress in North Carolina’s 13th congressional district, said he is urging Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and codify Roe v. Wade into federal law.

Jillian Riley of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic told reporters Wednesday that if Roe falls, she fully expects half the states to ban abortion entirely.

“Leaving even more people across this large swath of the South and Midwest without access to care,” Riley said. “South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia are almost sure to ban abortion without delay, leaving North Carolina and Virginia as the closest place to get care for our neighbors in these surrounding states.”

Riley said with that in mind they are working to increase their capacity to help women who may need to travel to seek medical care.

“We will be ready to help our patients navigate any new barriers that may be put in place.”

Chantal Stevens, ACLU-NC

Tara Romano, executive director of Pro-Choice NC, said her organization is also gearing up for a battle.

“We can and will call our lawmakers to demand they protect people seeking abortion care,” said Romano. “And we will challenge the deception, stigma and disinformation at every level.”

Chantal Stevens of the North Carolina ACLU said a post-Roe world would have a devastating impact on reproductive healthcare.

“We already know that banning abortion does not eliminate the need for this kind of care,” explained Stevens. “The brunt of these restrictions has fallen and will continue to fall on the most marginalized among us – people of color and those trying to make ends meet.”

Stevens also warned that government overreach by conservative lawmakers might not stop with abortion.

“They are also attacking our right to use birth control, who to love, our right to vote, and control what we learn in classrooms.”

Gerald Givens, Raleigh-Apex NAACP

Gerald Givens, president of the Raleigh-Apex chapter of the NAACP, said a woman’s right to choose is not only a civil right but a human right.

“Some of the women in my family, community, classmates, colleagues have had to exercise this right to choose. And today, I want you to know that I am standing here for you.”

Givens said reproductive freedom is not about religious beliefs; it is about a woman’s health and safety.

“It is not my business or anybody else’s business.”

Givens said after reading Justice Alito’s leaked draft opinion, he is very concerned about what other landmark court decisions could be at stake.

“So, what’s next? Is it Marbury v. Madison?…Miranda v Arizona? By Alito’s logic in this draft, these are not settled laws either.”

Any additional state restrictions on abortions Republicans in the NC General Assembly push would most certainly be met by a veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Democrats currently hold enough seats to sustain a gubernatorial veto, but that balance of power could shift with the outcome of November’s elections.

Givens said for that reason he is telling those who care about women’s health to be vigilant.

“Get out there and vote. And not just vote like your rights depend on it, vote like your lives depend on it.”

NC Court of Appeals sides with media seeking public records on jail detainee’s death

The Forsyth County District Attorney didn’t follow court rules when he sought to prevent a state agency from giving a news organization documents about a jail detainee’s death, a state Court of Appeals opinion says.

The opinion issued Tuesday said District Attorney Jim O’Neill “failed to follow the requirements of the Rules of Civil Procedure in filing its Objection and Request for Temporary Protective Order.”

O’Neill in January 2021 asked the Forsyth Superior Court for a temporary restraining order to prevent the state Department of Health and Human Services from giving documents to The News & Observer relating to the death of John Neville.

Neville died in December 2019, three days after jail deputies hog-tied him and held him on his stomach, The News & Observer reported.

The Superior Court initially granted the restraining order. A coalition of media companies asked the Superior Court to dismiss it. The Superior Court dissolved the protective order in February 2021. O’Neill appealed. The state Attorney General’s office handled the appeal.

When O’Neill first asked for the restraining order, he didn’t notify The News & Observer. No member of the media coalition was named as a party or was notified to appear in court, the Appeals Court opinion said. DHHS was told about the objection but did not get a summons and was not named as a party.  “In fact, the Record is devoid of any summons commencing the matter whatsoever,” the opinion said.

This amounted to a failure to follow the Rules of Civil Procedure.

The Appeals Court did not decide whether the documents are public records.