Women's health and civil liberties groups sue state over 20-week abortion law

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and the Center for Reproductive Rights are filing the lawsuit because they view the abortion law as unconstitutional, a press release from the N.C. ACLU said.

House Bill 465, passed in June 2015, bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy with some exceptions for medical emergencies.

Molly Rivera, spokesperson for the N.C. ACLU, said the legislation does not provide women with their constitutional right to an abortion because of the ban after the 20th week.

“Viability in a pregnancy typically happens around 24 weeks — it can vary from pregnancy to pregnancy, but in general it’s about 24,” she said.

“So again, this 20-week ban that has been created and imposed by politicians is completely arbitrary, with no medical evidence to back it up.”

Irena Como, staff attorney for the N.C. ACLU, said in the ACLU press release that it is wrong to prevent a woman from receiving abortion medical care.

“A woman must be able to make health decisions at different points in her pregnancy that are best for her circumstances, including whether to end a pregnancy, without interference from politicians,” she said.

A press release from the N.C. Values Coalition, an anti-abortion group, said there are numerous medical studies to support the 20-week ban.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, said the group sees an abortion as a violation of the constitutional rights of the unborn child.

“There is new scientific evidence that shows that babies feel pain when they’re at least 20 weeks old — there’s a lot of evidence that shows they can feel it earlier than that,” she said.

The ACLU press release also said the law puts doctors with patients seeking abortions in a difficult place, potentially leading to delayed care until the woman faces an emergency.

“Doctors will tell you that they never want to delay medical care that someone has already decided to have, especially if they get in cases with fetal anomalies, or a complex diagnosis,” Rivera said. “It’s really important that doctors are able to provide that care as soon as possible for the health of the woman.”

Fitzgerald and Rivera both said recent developments in the nationwide abortion debate have been in favor of the anti-abortion side, with North Carolina’s law as an example.

“It’s part of a larger trend to block abortion access,” Rivera said.

@markerparshall

state@dailytarheel.com

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