On Wednesday, a federal judge cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision enabling states to freely control procedures to terminate a pregnancy and upheld a decades-old North Carolina restriction on abortions done beyond 20 weeks of gestation.
Abortion advocates say Wednesday’s verdict limits access to reproductive healthcare in one of the few Southern states where abortion has remained relatively unrestricted, despite the fact that so-called late-term procedures are uncommon.
Greensboro’s U.S. District Judge William Osteen, who in May 2019 issued an injunction blocking implementation of the 20-week threshold as a violation of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s historic 1973 verdict that generally legalized abortion across the country, reversed his decision.
As a result of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court determined that women have a constitutional right to terminate pregnancies after the fetus is capable of surviving outside the womb, which typically occurs between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation unless the mother’s health is in danger.
The new conservative majority on the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson on June 24, opening the door for individual states to limit abortion in any way they deem appropriate, regardless of the health of the fetus.
After Osteen reinstated the legislation, abortions in North Carolina became illegal except in cases of a medical emergency.
According to data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019, the percentage of abortions performed after the 20th week of pregnancy is less than one percent. A full-term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.
After the Supreme Court’s decision put state politics front and center, the North Carolina ruling is expected to stoke the fires of a heated midterm race.
In the next November elections, North Carolina Republicans hope to win five more seats and achieve a supermajority necessary to overcome vetoes from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.
On July 6, Cooper signed an executive order protecting abortion patients from extradition and barring state agencies under his jurisdiction from aiding other states’ prosecutions of people who travel for the procedure.
On Wednesday, the governor said, “We must let politicians mislead people about the real-world ramifications of this destructive law.” “Denying women vital medical care in dire and hazardous cases, even if rare, is simply wrong.”
On Wednesday, the top court in South Carolina temporarily halted implementation of the state’s six-week abortion cutoff while it considered a challenge to the legislation brought by a local affiliate of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.