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The Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit in federal court in North Carolina on behalf of a group of abortion providers challenging the state’s 20 week abortion ban.

Current law in North Carolina (N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-44, 14-45, and 14-45.1 ) imposes a general criminal ban on abortion with two exceptions. The first authorizes a physician to perform an abortion during the first 20 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. The second exception authorizes a physician to perform an abortion after the twentieth week of a woman’s pregnancy if there is a medical emergency. The law was passed in 1973 and is not tied to fetal pain, unlike the 20 week abortion bans enacted in most states—the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act—which is based on a National Right to Life Committee model bill and which was first enacted in Nebraska in 2010.

Accordingly, North Carolina law bans abortion after the twentieth week of pregnancy except for women facing a medical emergency which is narrowly defined by North Carolina law.

Plaintiffs allege that the ban on previability abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy, except in narrowly defined medical emergencies, violates the substantive due process rights of their patients, guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, by banning previability abortions.


On March 25, 2019 U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen, Jr. blocked the law to the extent that it prohibits any pre-viability abortions, ruling that under Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “no matter what the state’s legitimate interest in restricting abortion, this interest can never support an outright ban prior to viability.” The court stayed the ruling for 60 days to give the legislature a chance to pass new legislation or appeal the decision.


**last updated March 27, 2019