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U.S. District Court judge reinstates ban on abortions after 20 weeks in NC


Supporters of abortion rights gather in Raleigh to protest the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.

Abortions are no longer legal after 20 weeks of pregnancy in North Carolina, with exceptions for medical emergencies, according to a federal court ruling on Wednesday.

In the Bryant v. Woodall ruling, United States District Judge William Osteen reinforced a 1973 state law that banned abortion in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

"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," the order said. 

Because of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Center, which overturned Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that there was no longer any foundation for the 2019 ruling that placed an injunction on the 1973 law – despite the North Carolina Department of Justice announcing it would not move to lift the injunction in July.

"This court will vacate its injunction because it was based on Supreme Court precedent that has since been reversed," the order said. 

Furthermore, Osteen rejected the plaintiffs’ request for a 24-hour delay to lift the injunction. 

The plaintiffs, which included doctors and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, asked for the stay because the procedure required to perform certain abortions safely after the 20th week of pregnancy takes two days.

"All parties in this case have undoubtedly been aware of Dobbs since it was decided nearly two months ago,” Osteen said in the order. “From that moment, the only reasonable conclusion to draw regarding this court’s injunction was that it was patently contrary to the rule of law as determined by the Supreme Court."

The ruling may affect the issues that drive North Carolinians to the polls in the midterm election this November. 

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said he was encouraged by the ruling, citing the need to follow the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Today a federal judge ruled that the injunction on North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban is 'patently contrary to the rule of law as determined by the Supreme Court' and should be lifted," Moore said in a statement. "I am encouraged that, although our attorney general has failed to do his duty, today we have a ruling that upholds the law.”

N.C. Republicans need three more seats in the state House of Representatives and two more seats in the state Senate to gain a veto-proof supermajority against action by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, which they could use to outlaw abortion in N.C. completely. 

"Denying women necessary medical care in extreme and threatening situations, even if rare, is fundamentally wrong, and we cannot let politicians mislead people about the real world implications of this harmful law," Cooper said in a statement on Twitter on Wednesday. 


@DTHCityState | 

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Emmy Martin

Emmy Martin is the 2023-24 editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as the DTH's city & state editor and summer managing editor. Emmy is a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and information science.