Judge reinstates North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Abortions in North Carolina are no longer legal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, eroding protections in one of the South’s few remaining safe havens for reproductive freedom.
U.S. District Judge William Osteen reinstated an unenforced 20-week abortion ban, with exceptions for urgent medical emergencies, after he said the June U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade erased the legal foundation for his 2019 ruling that placed an injunction on the 1973 state law.
His decision defies the recommendations of all named parties in the 2019 case, including doctors, district attorneys and the attorney general’s office, who earlier this month filed briefs requesting he let the injunction stand.
“Neither this court, nor the public, nor counsel, nor providers have the right to ignore the rule of law as determined by the Supreme Court,” wrote Osteen, who was appointed to the court by Republican President George W. Bush.
Unable to pass abortion restrictions that would survive Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, the Republican General Assembly leaders urged Osteen to restore the ban in a July 27 friend-of-the-court brief after the state’s Democratic attorney general, an outspoken abortion rights supporter, rejected their demand that he bring the ban before a judge himself.
Osteen’s ruling adds fuel to an already contentious midterm election year after the Supreme Court ruling propelled state-level politics into the spotlight. North Carolina Republicans in November will aim to clinch the five additional seats they need for a veto-proof supermajority in the state legislature as Democrats stave off their challenges to preserve Cooper’s power.
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