Citing the amendment's narrow definition of an emergency, a lawsuit challenging the law was brought forward in 2016 by Amy Bryant, M.D., Beverly Gray, M.D., Elizabeth Deans, M.D. and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
Planned Parenthood claims that 20-week abortion bans are unconstitutional and dangerous. It argues that while 99 percent of abortions occur prior to the 21st week, the most complex and dangerous situations happen in the third trimester. This means that women need every medical option available, according to Planned Parenthood.
There is also scientific debate surrounding the viability of a fetus prior to 24 weeks, which is a timeline largely set by the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. In his ruling, Osteen referred to another landmark abortion case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey.
“‘Even in the earliest stages of pregnancy, the state may enact rules and regulations designed to encourage (the mother) to choose to continue her pregnancy if those regulations do not impose an undue burden," Osteen stated. "However, a state may not ban abortions at any point prior to viability."
Viability can only be decided case-by-case with a medical professional, according to the Supreme Court ruling.
N.C. Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald said she thinks the reasoning behind Olsteen’s decision was flawed, as viability can begin weeks earlier than previously thought.
“Today's federal court ruling confirms North Carolina lawmakers have the constitutional right to restrict abortion when the child in the womb is viable,” Fitzgerald said in a statement on Monday. “Our hospitals and physicians are finding viability at points once thought inconceivable just a decade ago.”
Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, affirmed her belief that an overarching law puts women at the mercy of lawmakers rather than allowing them to decide for themselves.
“All decisions about pregnancy, including abortion, are deeply personal and should be decided between a woman and her doctor, without medically unnecessary interference from politicians,” Black said in a press release. "This ruling affirms that right and sends a clear message to politicians that women deserve our care, not our judgment.”
ACLU of North Carolina Senior Staff Attorney Irena Como said the law was designed not only to complicate the process for women, but also to interfere with doctors ability to help their patients.
“North Carolina’s ban was written by politicians to intimidate doctors and interfere in a woman’s personal medical decisions. We’re glad the court blocked this harmful and restrictive measure while affirming that people have a constitutional right to make their own decisions about their pregnancy,” Como said in a press release.
Fitzgerald said the N.C. Values Coalition will continue to fight for more restrictions on abortion. Some proposed legislation includes a ban on abortions after 13 weeks.
“I believe one day we all will be held accountable for the actions we take to protect the lives of the innocent,” Fitzgerald said.