Five North Carolina Abortion Restrictions Challenged in Lawsuit by the Center and Partners

Restrictions Disproportionately Harm Black People and People in Rural Areas


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The Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners have filed a wide-reaching lawsuit challenging five North Carolina abortion restrictions that have stigmatized essential health care and pushed abortion care out of reach for many people in the state. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of North Carolina abortion providers and a reproductive justice organization.

The laws include a longstanding, medically unnecessary abortion clinic licensing requirement; a ban on advanced practice clinicians performing abortions; a telemedicine ban; a 72-hour mandatory delay; and biased counseling requirements.

“These laws do nothing but make it harder to access abortion and should be struck down,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center. “North Carolina legislators should be expanding access to health care, not restricting it. This is particularly important during a pandemic. That means expanding the use of telehealth and getting rid of needless barriers that serve no medical purpose.”

“Our patients deserve to access abortion without having to jump through the many hoops state legislators have implemented,” said Kelly Flynn, president and CEO of the A Woman’s Choice clinics. “These restrictions force our patients to travel long distances and delay their care, and they force us, the providers, to give them medically unnecessary, biased information about abortion. We’re ready to fight in court to strike down these harmful restrictions.”

The restrictions being challenged include:

  • A licensing scheme that arbitrarily singles out abortion providers with medically unnecessary and onerous requirements.

  • A ban on qualified advanced practice clinicians (APCs), such as physician assistants, certified nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners, from providing abortions.

  • A ban on the use of telehealth for medication abortion.

  • A requirement that providers deliver state-mandated biased counseling with no medical benefit to their patients.

  • A mandatory delay for patients seeking abortion care of at least 72 hours after they receive state-mandated information.

Abortion Care is Already Difficult to Access in North Carolina

Decades of attacks on reproductive rights and health care access by North Carolina legislators have already led to provider shortages and inadequate public health infrastructure in the state—with the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbating these issues. The state’s discriminatory policies violate civil and reproductive rights and disproportionately harm Black people and people living in rural areas, who already face obstacles to accessing care.

Since 2011, state politicians in the U.S. have passed more than 480 restrictions on abortion, many of which are aimed at providers. This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to legislate abortion out of existence. Lawsuits by the Center and other organizations have prevented many illegal restrictions from taking effect, and abortion care remains legal in all 50 states.

The Center will continue to challenge state abortion restrictions, and recently won a U.S. Supreme Court case, June Medical Services v. Russo, challenging a medically unnecessary law in Louisiana. That law would have banned doctors from providing abortion care unless they had admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The plaintiffs in the North Carolina case are Planned Parenthood South Atlantic; SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective; A Woman’s Choice of Charlotte, Inc.; A Woman’s Choice of Greensboro, Inc.; A Woman’s Choice of Raleigh, Inc; three doctors; and one APC. They are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of North Carolina, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

For details on North Carolina’s abortion laws and policies, please click here for the Center’s “What if Roe Fell?” interactive map featuring state-by-state analyses.