After Roe v Wade overturned, NC lawmakers want to reinstate a ban on abortions after 20 weeks

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BySamantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Monday, June 27, 2022
NC lawmakers want to reinstate a ban on abortions after 20 weeks
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North Carolina had a ban on abortions after 20 weeks but it hasn't been enforceable, now that could change in wake of SCOTUS overturning Roe v Wade.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina has had a ban on abortions after 20 weeks but it hasn't been enforceable, but now that could change.

In 2019, a federal judge struck down the state's 20-week ban on abortions in the case of Bryant v. Woodall. The ruling said the ban violated Roe v. Wade. When the Supreme Court overturned the historic case on Friday, the viability of the ruling in the North Carolina case is in question.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger sent a letter to Attorney General Josh Stein on Friday.

"With the legal underpinning of the Byrant court's injunction now erased, we must respectfully call on your and the Department of Justice to take all necessary legal action to lift the injunction currently barring the full enforcement of our state's abortion restrictions...," part of the letter stated.

The Republican leaders gave Stein until July 1 to respond as they "stand ready to take the necessary steps to restore North Carolina's abortion laws to where they were before Bryant struck them down."

To restore the law could involve a lengthy and complex process.

"You think there would be a straightforward answer to all of this but there is not a lot of case law," explained Duke law professor Neil Seigel.

Seigel said the process would involve the initial parties involved in Bryant v. Woodall going back to the court.

"What would have to happen now I think the best view is not for the legislator to need to repass it but that for the litigates to go back to court," Seigel said.

Stein's office said it does plan on responding to the letter this week. Stein was not directly involved with the Bryant case. A spokesperson for Byrant said the Department of Justice is "continuing to review the Supreme Court's decision as it relates to ongoing litigation."

Stein joined 22 other U.S. attorney generals on Monday in a national coalition that emphasized their intent to support and expand access to abortion care.

Meanwhile, OBGYN doctors with Duke Health said they opposed reinstating the 20-week ban.

"I strongly oppose it's why, you know, my colleagues challenged that law because it was so important for us to be able to provide care in those circumstances and not have people have to leave the state to get that care, said Dr. Jonas Swartz, an Duke University assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr. Beverly Gray, an OBGYN doctor with Duke Health, explained major health complications could arise after 20 weeks.

"A patient might just be developing enough impacts from their heart disease or their cardiomyopathy or their other underlying medical issues that are causing them to have organ failure that are causing them to need to be in the ICU to stay alive," Gray explained. "So by simplifying it, say, 'Okay, we'll make it a 20-week ban, there are all these patients that fall into that window where it's very difficult to make the determination of when is the risk enough."

Swartz said there is nothing special about the 20-week mark in a pregnancy and that fetuses cannot feel pain prior to 28 weeks.

"This is just an arbitrarily designated state-imposed risk that was historically imposed. So we really need to provide full-spectrum care to people we need to have that option," he said.

He said reinforcing the ban will cause some patients to have to travel out of the state for needed care.

"It's really limiting. It's really inconvenient. It really puts a tremendous burden on people. So, you know, this sort of undue burden standard is no longer where we're looking in the real world putting that burden on people is horrible," Swartz said.

Even if the ban was reinstated, abortions prior to 20 weeks and abortions that are medically necessary at any point in the pregnancy will remain legal in North Carolina. The legality of abortions in the state would only change if the General Assembly changes the state statutes, which would require Governor Roy Cooper to sign the new provisions into law.

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