Judge: North Carolina’s 20-Week Abortion Ban Is Unconstitutional

A federal judge has struck down a 1973 North Carolina law that limited abortion to the first 20 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. U.S. district Judge William Osteen issued a ruling March 25, finding the law unconstitutional.

Although the law banning abortion after 20-weeks gestation has been on the books for decades, it has never been enforced. The decision found that the law, even if not enforced, had a “chilling effect” that harmed constitutional rights.

The law originally included exemptions that permitted an abortion to protect the health of the mother, but a 2015 amendment to the legislation narrowly defined this as when a “major bodily function” would be at risk if the pregnancy continued.

That change prompted abortion advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, to file a 2016 suit against the law. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic operates facilities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

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