Judge lifts injunction on North Carolina’s 20-week abortion law

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Weeks after North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced that he would not seek to reinstate the state’s 20-week abortion restriction, federal judge William Osteen has ruled that the law should take effect.

According to The News & Observer, Osteen had ruled in 2019 that the law, which protects preborn children after 20 weeks from abortion, was unconstitutional because it violated Supreme Court precedent. Following Roe’s overturn in June, he filed an order asking both parties in the lawsuit to file briefs with their respective positions, noting that in light of the Supreme Court decision, his previous ruling may no longer apply.

Stein, tasked with enforcing state laws, refused to do so, noting that “Protecting (abortion) is more important than ever, as states across the nation are banning abortions in all instances, including rape and incest.” Instead, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore stepped in, filing a friend-of-the-court brief asking Osteen to reverse the decision.

“North Carolina’s abortion statutes are undeniably lawful under Dobbs, and there is no longer any basis for an injunction to shackle the state from pursuing its legitimate interests,” Berger and Moore wrote in their brief.

READ: North Carolina announces large budget increase for pregnancy resource centers

Osteen’s August 17 court ruling lifted the injunction. “Neither this court, nor the public, nor counsel, nor providers have the right to ignore the rule of law as determined by the Supreme Court,” Osteen wrote.

Moore spoke out after Osteen’s ruling. “I am encouraged that, although our attorney general has failed to do his duty, today we have a ruling that upholds the law,” he said.

Previously, abortions in the state were legal up to fetal “viability,” which could mean anywhere between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Despite this, babies born prematurely as young as 21 weeks have survived outside the womb.

North Carolina Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald also released a statement following Osteen’s ruling, noting that the state still has much to do to protect preborn children.

“We are pleased that U.S. District Judge Osteen has rightfully lifted the injunction against North Carolina’s law limiting abortion to 20 weeks, despite Attorney General Josh Stein refusing to do his job and embracing the extreme position of the abortion industry demanding abortion for any reason up to the day of delivery,” she said. “The reinstatement of this 50-plus-year-old law limiting abortion to 20 weeks is just the beginning, because unborn babies are humans with human rights, and we are going to work hard to get legislation passed which will protect as many unborn babies and their mothers as possible.”

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