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North Carolina Department of Justice says it will not move to reinforce the state's 20-week abortion ban

josh stein file

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein delivers a talk at UNC on January 24, 2018.

The North Carolina Department of Justice will not move to lift the injunction in Bryant v. Woodall, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced on Thursday. 

The injunction was granted in 2019 by the district court and prevents the state from enforcing its 20-week abortion ban. 

The Bryant v. Woodall case, from which the injunction stems, was filed in 2016 on behalf of abortion providers in North Carolina and their patients seeking abortion care. 

"Abortion is an extremely safe medical procedure," the case reads, "The vast majority of abortions performed in the United States and in North Carolina occur in the first trimester of pregnancy. Only a small number of abortions are performed in the United States after 20 weeks. Women seek abortions for many different reasons, relating to their individual situations at the time of that pregnancy."

Thursday's news follows the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold a Mississippi abortion ban in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, as well as overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion access at the federal level. The rulings leave abortion legislation up to individual states with many states expected to ban or severely restrict abortion access. 

According to North Carolina state law, abortions are banned after 20 weeks except to save the life or health of the mother. The Bryant v. Woodall case argued that the ban was unconstitutional since the 20-week marker is several weeks prior to when a pregnancy would be considered medically viable.

The case defines viability as the point at which a fetus is capable of living outside of the uterus under normal conditions. In a normally progressing pregnancy, viability typically does not occur before 24 weeks from the women's last menstrual period. 

Further, the case states that fetal viability must be determined by a physician, and no fetus is viable during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

"North Carolina women seeking a pre-viability abortion after the twentieth week of pregnancy in a situation other than a medical emergency as defined in North Carolina law are prohibited from doing so by the 20-week ban," the case reads.

Stein said in a tweet that, with other states banning abortions in all instances, protecting reproductive freedoms is more important than ever. 

"My office will not take action that would restrict a women's ability to make their own reproductive health care decisions," he said.

Earlier this month, Gov. Roy Cooper also signed an executive order that will protect reproductive freedom and abortion access in North Carolina.

If you are seeking abortion or reproductive services, see The Daily Tar Heel's resource guide

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