Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Healthcare providers take legal action against looming abortion ban

Gov. Cooper asks Wilmington OBGYN Dr. Kaitlin Warta to discuss the barriers SB20 would enact for women seeking abortions during a round table discussion last month at CFCC. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti Willis)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Two weeks before North Carolina’s more restrictive abortion bill comes into play, healthcare providers are filing suit asking for clarification on a number of the provisions.

READ MORE: Davis backtracks on campaign promise, votes with GOP to override governor veto on abortion bill

ALSO: ‘There is still time’: Gov. Cooper talks abortion ban with local healthcare advocates prior to veto

Friday, plaintiffs in the suit filed their case citing “confusing” language and “contradictory provisions.”

Senate Bill 20, vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper but passed an override by the GOP-supermajority, would ban abortion care after 12 weeks, unless it meets extenuating circumstances. The suit calls the new law unconstitutional.

The law was drafted and passed through the House and Senate in 48 hours, without opportunity for amendments.

Filed by American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, Planned Parenthood of the South Atlantic, and Dr. Beverly A. Gray, the suit asks the federal court to address several provisions within the law:

  • The appearance of preventing providers from offering medication abortion after 10 weeks of pregnancy, despite another provision that explicitly states medication abortion is lawful through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy
  • A mandate that survivors of sexual assault obtain abortions in a hospital after 12 weeks of pregnancy, under exceptions for rape and incest, despite medically trained professionals able to offer safe care in a clinic setting
  • A provision requiring information provided to all patients 72 hours before an abortion with no exceptions for medical emergencies, despite other sections of S.B. 20 outlining a medical emergency exception to the 72-hour waiting period
  • The prohibition of advising how a person can access an abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy, preventing providers from helping patients access lawful care; the suit cites violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

“Starting July 1, patients and health care providers in North Carolina will be forced to endure the harms of this sweeping abortion ban and its tangled web of medically unnecessary, inconsistent, and dangerous restrictions on care,” Planned Parenthood South Atlantic president and CEO Jenny Black said in a press release.

She said the bill is more than a ban on abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy; it includes new restrictions making it more difficult for patients to access care.

“Thousands of people are depending on us to fight for their ability to get the health care they need and deserve, and that is what we are doing today in court,” Black said in the release.

North Carolina physician and a plaintiff in the lawsuit said S.B. 20 was passed without guidance from the medical community. She said it lacks “clarity and asks patients and health care providers to overcome impossible hurdles to obtain and provide care.”

ACLU legal director Kristi Graunke called the bill “sloppily drafted.”

In addition to Friday’s filed lawsuit, health care providers filed a request to modify the permanent injunction in a previously case, Stuart v. Loomis. The filing asks the courts to reopen the 2011 case and re-examine the language clarifying the type of medical professionals able to provide patients with information at an initial visit.

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