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Some North Carolina Abortion Restrictions Ruled Unlawful

Source: The Associated Press

Some of North Carolina government’s restrictions on dispensing abortion pills, such as requiring that doctors prescribe and provide the drug to the patient in person, are unlawful, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles in Greensboro granted a partial victory to a physician who performs abortions and who last year sued state health and medical officials on medication abortion regulations beyond those addressed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Other restrictions on the drug mifepristone that were challenged, such as requiring an in-person consultation 72 hours in advance, an in-person examination and an ultrasound before prescribing, can remain, Eagles wrote. That is because they have not been expressly reviewed and rejected by the FDA, or because they focus more on the practice of medicine or on general patient health, she added.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein, an abortion rights supporter and candidate for governor, was a named legal party in the case. “The court held that parts of North Carolina’s anti-abortion law that make it harder for women, especially in rural North Carolina, to get medication abortion are unconstitutional,” Stein said Tuesday. “Republican legislators enacted the law to control, not protect, women.”

Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Republican-led General Assembly enacted new abortion laws in 2023 that carried onward or expanded many abortion restrictions, such as moving the ban on most abortions from after 20 weeks of pregnancy to 12 weeks. Restrictions also applied specifically to medication abortions. Violating some rules can result in criminal, civil and professional penalties.

The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000 to end pregnancy, when used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol. The pills are now used in more than half of all abortions in the U.S.

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