RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As a federal judge considers whether to reinstate a law banning abortions in North Carolina after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Atty. Gen. Josh Stein (D) said Wednesday his office will weigh in on that case ahead of the deadline the judge set for early next week.
However, Stein declined to elaborate on specifically what his agency will say.
Republicans in the General Assembly have called on him to push for the law to be reinstated, but he has declined to do that.
“This issue matters to millions of North Carolinians, and I represent them as their attorney general,” Stein said. “They are consulting with their clients and I’m finalizing their draft. We’ll see what they say on Monday.”
His comments came at a press conference with Democratic lawmakers and a physician who all criticized neighboring states for implementing new restrictions on abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
U.S. Judge William Osteen has told the parties involved in the case dealing with North Carolina’s 20-week ban to submit briefs to him by the beginning of next week. A few years ago, Judge Osteen issued an injunction blocking that law, citing Roe v. Wade. He’s already said that decision “may now be contrary to law.”
Republicans in the legislature filed a brief in court last week saying they agree with that statement and urged the judge to lift the injunction, that would allow the law to go into effect again.
“It’s almost a certainty that law will go back into effect,” Tami Fitzgerald said, executive director of the NC Values Coalition. “The judge probably has no choice but to reinstate the 20-week law.”
The decision comes as North Carolina is seeing a surge in patients coming here from out of state seeking abortion services.
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic said out-of-state patients now account for more than one-third of people seeking services at their facilities. In June, it had 95 patients from South Carolina at its facilities in North Carolina and Virginia. That number more than doubled in the first half of July.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order impacting people traveling to other states for abortion services. It directs the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services “to consider action to advance access to reproductive healthcare services, including through Medicaid for patients who travel out of state for reproductive healthcare services.”
Dr. Erica Pettigrew, a family medicine physician who spoke with Atty. Gen. Stein on Wednesday, called the laws enacted in nearby states “horrific” and described what some of the women are experiencing.
“Oftentimes, they know they’re pregnant but they don’t even know that they have some of these life-threatening conditions. So, their care is delayed because they have to scramble and figure out where they can go,” Dr. Pettigrew said.
Democrats are attempting to make the issue a focal point in this year’s election, as the outcome will determine whether Republicans can successfully enact any new laws related to abortion next year.
“These are all attempts, election-year attempts, to manipulate voters. And, it’s trying to put lipstick on a pig,” Fitzgerald said. “Unless we change the law, women are going to flock to North Carolina to have abortions. We’re going to become an abortion center, which is tragic.”
Republicans in the General Assembly have not said yet what specific changes to the law they would pursue.
U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC 2nd District) said she thinks a vote Tuesday in Kansas, a conservative state, could be an indication of what to expect in this year’s election. Voters in that state rejected a measure that could have led to lawmakers enacting a ban on abortions, instead maintaining a right to abortion in the state’s constitution.
“The fact that Kansas was the canary in the coal mine for this and we got that kind of result, I think sends a very, very strong message to the rest of the country,” she said.