Planned Parenthood South Atlantic filed a federal lawsuit Friday over the new North Carolina law limiting abortion, saying its provisions are contradictory, add further harm to rape victims, and may violate the First Amendment.
Most of the North Carolina law banning abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest, “life-limiting fetal anomalies,” or emergencies goes into effect on July 1. The state now has a 20-week ban on most abortions.
The new law allows abortions up to 20 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape or incest. But abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy must be performed in hospitals rather than clinics.
“This irrational limitation on one of the safest medical procedures will further harm victims of sexual assault without improving safety,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit seeks to make clear whether abortion pills are legal through 12 weeks of pregnancy. Medication abortions are the most common form of abortion in the state.
Legislators in their public statements said abortion pills can be used through 12 weeks, but the law is inconsistent, referring to both 12-week and 70-day limits for using abortion pills, the lawsuit says.
The law is also unclear as to whether Planned Parenthood or doctors can help people who are more than 12 weeks pregnant obtain legal abortions in other states, the lawsuit says. If the law prohibits offering that advice, it violates the First Amendment, the suit says.
Dr. Beverly Gray, a Duke University Ob/Gyn who was one of the doctors most critical of the bill, is one of the plaintiffs.
“Given the hurried passage of this bill without guidance from the medical community, S.B. 20 lacks clarity and asks patients and health care providers to overcome impossible hurdles to obtain and provide care,” she said in a statement. “These hurdles are not based in science but are unreasonable and will make it virtually impossible for many people to receive abortion care in our state.”
Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein is named as a defendant in the suit. Stein, who is running for Governor, opposes the law.
In a news release last month, Stein said, “This bill is about controlling women and taking away their freedoms. And they are not done yet. They will keep coming until they completely ban abortion in every instance. We can’t let them.”
This story was published earlier by the NC Newsline, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom network, which includes the Florida Phoenix.
Lynn Bonner reporting.
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