North Carolina Abortion Providers and Reproductive Justice Activists File Sweeping Litigation Challenging Multiple Abortion Restrictions

Restrictions Disproportionately Impact Black North Carolinians And People in Rural Areas

September 3, 2020 9:00 am

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Abortion providers in North Carolina and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective sued today challenging several medically unnecessary abortion restrictions that have pushed abortion out of reach in the state and stigmatized essential health care. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Decades of attacks on reproductive rights and health care access by state legislators have already led to provider shortages and an inadequate public health infrastructure in the state, with the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbating these issues. These discriminatory policies violate civil and reproductive rights, and disproportionately impact North Carolina’s communities of color, particularly Black communities, as well as rural communities.

The restrictions being challenged include:

  • A licensing scheme that arbitrarily singles out abortion providers with medically unnecessary and onerous requirements;
  • A ban on qualified advanced practice clinicians (APCs), such as physician assistants, certified nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners, from providing abortions;
  • A ban on the use of telehealth for medication abortion;
  • A requirement that providers deliver state-mandated biased counseling with no medical benefit to their patients; and
  • A mandatory delay for patients seeking an abortion of at least 72 hours after they receive state-mandated information.

The groups issued the following statements:

Statement from Anjali Dalal, senior staff attorney, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:
“Since 2011, politicians have passed more than 460 medically unnecessary laws to push abortion out of reach. The laws we are challenging today create a web of restrictions that limit whether, when, and under what circumstances people may obtain an abortion. They serve only as obstacles in the way of needed medical care, and should be struck down to ensure North Carolinians can access abortion, and ensure pateints from surrounding states, that are increasingly hostile to abortion, can do the same.”

Statement from Monica Simpson, executive director, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective:
“For true reproductive freedom, we need far more than the legal right to abortion. If we are not able to get reproductive health care when we need it, from providers we trust, in spaces that are accessible and affirming to our communities and our needs, then we are not actually free. As a North Carolina native, I’ve seen firsthand how these laws insult the dignity and humanity of Black and brown women, trans, and non-binary folks; we have been denied full access to reproductive justice for far too long. SisterSong joins this lawsuit as a continuation of our communities’ deep and ongoing leadership in North Carolina and across the South. We know we will see the end of racist, misogynist abortion laws in this state.”

Statement from Elizabeth Barber, reproductive freedom fellow at the ACLU of North Carolina:
“People aren’t truly free if we can’t make our own decisions about our bodies, our lives, and our futures. Access to healthcare should be safe, affordable, and free from government interference. We are hopeful that the court will uphold the basic rights of North Carolinians by removing barriers that currently restrict access to safe reproductive healthcare and tie the hands of medical professionals who should be free to provide the best care for their patients.”

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“For decades, the reproductive rights of North Carolinians have been relentlessly attacked by politicians in the state legislature who have created a complex web of medically unnecessary requirements designed to push abortion access out of reach. Today, our nation is also facing dueling, emergent public health crises: state-sanctioned racist violence against people of color and COVID-19. The lawsuit filed today in North Carolina is one piece of our fight to ensure patients can access essential health care, including vital family planning services — regardless of who they are or where they live.”

Statement from Nancy Northup, president & CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“These laws do nothing but make it harder to access abortion and should be struck down. North Carolina legislators should be expanding access to health care, not restricting it. This is particularly important during a pandemic. That means expanding the use of telehealth and getting rid of needless barriers that serve no medical purpose.”

Access to abortion is limited in North Carolina as a result of decades of political attacks that reached a fever pitch under former Gov. Pat McCrory. During the McCrory-Forest administration, 11 abortion facilities were shut down, leaving 91 percent of North Carolina counties without an abortion provider and disproportionately hurting rural communities. And politicians showed they’d stop at nothing to chip away at abortion access even further. Then-Speaker of the House Thom Tillis infamously added numerous abortion restrictions into a motorcycle safety bill as a backdoor attempt to quietly erode reproductive rights on the final day of the 2013 legislative session.

The plaintiffs in the case are Planned Parenthood South Atlantic; SisterSong; A Woman’s Choice of Charlotte, Inc.; A Woman’s Choice of Greensboro, Inc.; A Woman’s Choice of Raleigh, Inc; three doctors; and one advanced practice clinician. They are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of North Carolina, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

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