Appeals Court Affirms Decision Striking Down Unconstitutional Abortion Ban

North Carolina’s 20-week Ban Remains Enjoined

June 16, 2021 11:00 am

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RICHMOND, Va. Today, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of people seeking abortion care in North Carolina, upholding a lower court’s decision to strike down an abortion ban. The law banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in extremely narrow instances of medical emergency. The court rejected the state’s claims that abortion providers did not have standing to challenge the law.

“This ruling is a victory for all North Carolinians in line with decades of Supreme Court precedent,” said Genevieve Scott, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Forcing someone to continue a pregnancy against their will is a violation of their basic humanity, their rights, and their freedom. Because of this decision, North Carolina is a haven where patients can access abortion even as politicians throughout the South pass dozens of restrictions attacking fundamental rights. As the court held, ‘[t]he Providers have a right to insist that North Carolina comply with the Constitution — and so do their patients.’”

“This decades-old abortion ban took away patients’ fundamental rights for far too long, and we applaud the court’s decision today to keep it from harming more people,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Despite today’s decision, abortion is still inaccessible for millions across the country for no other reason than politicians’ hellbent efforts to put their political goals ahead of the well-being of their constituents. We’ll continue fighting cruel abortion restrictions like the one struck down today until every person can exercise their fundamental right to safe, legal abortion regardless of where they live or how much they make.”

“This is an essential victory for reproductive freedom in North Carolina,” said Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Abortion is a right, and throughout pregnancy, a person’s health and well-being — not political agendas or interference — should guide important medical decisions. We are pleased to see the court protect that right today.”

Access to abortion is already limited in North Carolina due to decades of political attacks under former Governor Pat McCrory. While he was governor, several abortion facilities were forced to shut down, leaving 91 percent of North Carolina counties without an abortion provider and disproportionately hurting rural communities.

Today’s result comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to review a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. These kind of bans on abortion prior to viability have been unconstitutional since 1973, when the Supreme Court decided the landmark case Roe v. Wade. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Court has agreed to consider whether prohibitions on abortion pre-viability are unconstitutional.

Studies show that people who are denied an abortion experience serious physical and economic consequences. They are more likely to experience subsequent poverty, to have insufficient funds to pay for basic living expenses, to have poorer health, and are more likely to be trapped in violent relationships. After being denied an abortion, a person has three times greater odds of being unemployed than a person who was able to obtain abortion care. Abortion bans disproportionately threaten the health, rights, and lives of people of color and people struggling to make ends meet, as they already face additional hurdles to accessing abortion.

The case, Bryant et al. v. Woodall et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of North Carolina on behalf of various abortion providers in the state and their patients seeking abortions.

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