H.B. 190, Dept. of Health and Human Services Revisions, a bill that features revisions to abortion law changes made in S.B.20, Care for Women, Children, and Families Act, was signed into law by Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday.  

“In addition to being dangerous for women, the rushed abortion ban was so poorly written that it is causing real uncertainty for doctors and other health care providers,” Cooper said in a press release. “This bill is important to clarify the rules and provide some certainty, however, we will continue fighting on all fronts the Republican assault on women’s reproductive freedom.”

In paperwork filed Monday, Planned Parenthood and Duke Health Dr. Beverly Gray highlighted the state Senate’s recent consideration of H.B 190. Senators first considered the measure on June 22. The Senate took the first of two required votes, endorsing it with a 27-17 party-line vote. Republicans favored the measure. Democrats voted no.

Most proposed revisions “seem directly responsive to Plaintiffs’ complaint,” Planned Parenthood’s lawyers wrote.

Planned Parenthood and Gray initially filed suit on June 16. They followed up on June 21 with a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

The new court document cites five changes. They affect items such as the state’s fetal homicide law, the ability to “advise” pregnant women about abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy, 72-hour waiting periods, mandatory reporting of abortions involving minors, and time limits for medication abortion. In each case, the document says plaintiffs challenged related provisions in the original law.

“The amendments, however, do not change the effective date, which, for most of the provisions of the Act that Plaintiffs challenge, is July 1, 2023,” according to the court filing. “As a result, if the proposed amendments do not become law before that date, the current version of the Act would take effect despite these proposed changes, and Plaintiffs’ need for a temporary restraining order would be unchanged.”

“The pending changes to the Act, if adopted as currently written, will affect Plaintiffs’ claims and likely render many (but not all) of their claims moot,” Planned Parenthood’s lawyers wrote. “But even if the amendments become law before July 1, 2023, Plaintiffs’ need for a temporary restraining order persists because Plaintiffs will need time to assess and comply with this complex and ever-changing law.”

State Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, filed paperwork on June 22 to intervene in the case titled Planned Parenthood v. Stein. Legislative leaders are seeking to defend the law.

Legislative leaders’ motion indicated that they were compelled to act when they learned last Thursday that N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, would not defend the law.

Berger and Moore cited Stein’s tweet late Thursday afternoon. “I support women’s reproductive freedoms,” the attorney general tweeted. “After a thorough review of the case in Planned Parenthood v. Stein, I have concluded that many of the provisions in North Carolina’s anti-abortion law are unconstitutional. My office will not defend those parts of the law.”

Critics of the new law did not aim their legal complaint at leaders of the N.C. General Assembly, which approved the law. Instead, the named defendants include state Attorney General Josh Stein, Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley, nine local district attorneys, the president of the N.C. Medical Board, and the chair of the N.C. Board of Nursing.

Stein’s brief argued that the new law “is riddled with incoherence and uncertainty. Some provisions impose contradictory obligations on doctors; others cross-reference laws that are now repealed. The upshot is that doctors in North Carolina simply do not know what they can and cannot do without risking criminal liability.”

Both chambers of the General Assembly voted on May 16 to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the abortion legislation. All Republicans voted in favor of the legislation. Every Democrat opposed it. The 72-48 House vote and the 30-20 Senate vote met the three-fifths requirement for a veto override.

The law made the following changes to North Carolina’s abortion laws:

  • Limit elective abortions in the second and third trimesters.
  • Establish an exception for rape and incest through 20 weeks.
  • Establish an exception for fetal life-limiting anomalies through 24 weeks.

The law maintained an exception to save the life of the mother through the duration of her pregnancy.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles held a hearing Wednesday morning in Greensboro to decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the law from taking effect as scheduled on July 1.

She is scheduled to release her opinion on Friday.