By Bill Pincus, MD, President, North Carolina Right to Life
In a last gasp to foil North Carolina Senate Bill 20, the “Care for Women, Children and Families Act,” Planned Parenthood sued the government, but their efforts were in vain.
In a lawsuit, they claimed that the law was obscure, vague, and unconstitutional. In reality, one of the few areas of discrepancy was between when chemical abortions (via abortion pill) and surgical abortions are allowed. Chemical abortions are fatal to the unborn child, but they also become increasingly dangerous to the life and health of the mother past 10 weeks. The new law makes 12 weeks the limit for surgical abortions, but 10 weeks for chemical abortions. This became one of the areas of contention.
Republicans then changed the limit of 10 weeks to 12 weeks for chemical abortions through a bill that received almost unanimous support from both sides of the aisle. They also responded to a few other provisions in the Planned Parenthood suit thus rendering most of the claims in the suit moot.
In the lawsuit, U. S. District Judge Catherine Eagles, admitted that trying to throw out the entire law over these issues was “overbroad” and she refused to issue any temporary restraining order that was not limited to the specific issues being challenged in the Planned Parenthood lawsuit.
In effect, Judge Eagles allowed the provisions of the new law to take effect except for one rule that requires doctors to document the existence of a pregnancy before conducting a medication (chemical) abortion. According to the suit, in some cases, the pregnancy is too early to detect, which made abortion doctors nervous that they may run afoul of the law. The judge has this provision on hold for at least the next two weeks, until it can be revisited.
One other area being challenged by Planned Parenthood that is still to be resolved in court is the rule that beginning Oct. 1, surgical abortions performed after 12 weeks of pregnancy must be completed in hospitals. These would be abortions in cases of rape and incest which are allowed to 20 weeks, and “life-limiting” fetal anomalies which are allowed to 24 weeks.
In the end, Democrat Governor Roy Cooper signed the bill containing the new amendments from Republican lawmakers into law. He knew that the legislative support for the “Care for Women, Children and Families Act” was strong enough that it could not be thrown off course.
North Carolina Right to Life has acknowledged the new law as a step in the right direction but insists that it does very little to limit abortion, given that over 90% occur under 12 weeks. With the change to the limit on chemical abortion from 10 weeks gestation to 12 weeks gestation, more babies will die and more women will be at risk of complications. There is still much more work to be done.