RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Abortion rights groups on Thursday criticized a judge’s decision to reinstate North Carolina’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and said it emphasizes the importance of this year’s election.
U.S. Judge William Osteen ruled this week that there was no longer any legal basis to block the law now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. Republican legislative leaders had urged him to lift the injunction he put in place in 2019.
“Lifting this injunction will cause an immediate threat to both public health and personal freedom,” Chantal Stevens said, the executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina.
Jillian Riley, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said the organization has updated its policies to comply with the reinstated law.
The move occurred as North Carolina has seen a surge in patients traveling from out of state for abortion services.
Planned Parenthood said in July, out-of-state patients accounted for 35 percent of the people seeking its services, that was up from 14 percent in June. Those patients have primarily come from South Carolina.
The same day the judge in North Carolina reinstated the 20-week ban, the South Carolina state Supreme Court temporarily blocked a law there that bans most abortions after six weeks.
“This is more confusion for patients seeking care in our state and around North Carolina,” Rep. Julie von Haefen (D-Wake) said during a press conference Thursday. “This is just the start of what’s to come in North Carolina should anti-abortion lawmakers regain a supermajority in North Carolina.”
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said he was “encouraged” by the judge’s decision on the 20-week ban, adding that it “upholds the law.”
He and other legislative leaders have said that addressing abortion access will be a top priority for them in the next legislative session, that begins in January.
Speaker Moore hasn’t said specifically what restrictions Republicans would seek to implement.
Furthermore, when asked recently about his own position on the issue he said, “I like the notion of where you actually see if there’s a heartbeat of a child, if there’s actually a heartbeat of a child. And, if there is a heartbeat, look at it from that point.”
Ultimately, the election will determine whether Republicans would be successful in enacting any new laws. They’re aiming to flip enough Democratic-held seats to regain a supermajority that could more easily override vetoes by Gov. Roy Cooper (D).
Cooper said Thursday while abortions after 20 weeks are rare, the reinstated law concerns him because of “disastrous, horrible situations that affect families.”
“What I’m concerned about most is what happens after these elections and how much further toward the extremes this Republican leadership is going to move this issue,” he said.