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Abortion-rights groups sue to overturn several NC laws

By Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press

Abortion-rights groups and abortion providers on Thursday sued to overturn several restrictions on the procedure approved by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature during the past decade.

The plaintiffs challenge five portions of state laws, including those that mandate a 72-hour waiting period for a woman to receive an abortion and allow only a “qualified physician” to perform the procedure.

They also said a ban on virtual appointments to receive a medication-induced abortion violates the rights of women under the state constitution who can otherwise receive medical treatment through telemedicine.

“This web of abortion restrictions in North Carolina harms our patients, full stop,” said Dr. Katherine Farris, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which is one of the plaintiffs. “These barriers serve no medical purpose. Instead, they interfere in patients’ decisions about how and when to become a parent and ultimately endanger their health and well-being.”

The lawsuit was filed in Wake County court the same day that Vice President Mike Pence participated in a rally for abortion opponents at a Raleigh church that featured several anti-abortion candidates.

It also seeks to overturn requirements approved in 2011 that certain information be presented to a pregnant woman. Critics contend the information is biased and obstructs the patient-physician relationship.

And regulations placed upon clinics such as those operated by Planned Parenthood and A Woman’s Choice in the state are “onerous and medically unnecessary” and prevent abortion access, the lawsuit said. A Woman’s Choice affiliates also are among the plaintiffs.

“These laws serve only to prevent North Carolinians from exercising their constitutional right to abortion,” the lawsuit said.

Defendants include House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, as well as local prosecutors and state health officials.

“These laws are intended to protect the health and safety of women and have been on the books for years,” Berger spokesperson Lauren Horsch wrote in an email. Legislative leaders will vigorously defend these laws “against another attempt by the radical left to use the courts to overcome voters’ rejection of their fringe agenda,” added Moore’s spokesperson, Joseph Kyzer.

Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, is also a defendant in the lawsuit because he helps enforce state laws. His office and attorneys for legislative leaders likely would defend state officials in court. Stein’s office is reviewing the filing, a spokesperson said.

The attorney general’s office is  already appealing a federal judge’s decision that struck down North Carolina’s ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy except in a medical emergency. Stein isn’t personally involved in the appeal because of his abortion views.

In 2014, a federal appeals court upheld striking down a portion of the 2011 state law  that told abortion providers to show and describe an ultrasound to the pregnant woman, even if she refuses to look or listen.

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