On Thursday, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, said he would not defend his state over a new abortion law legislators passed in May.
The majority of Senate Bill 20 (S.B. 20), the law Stein is referencing, goes into effect on July 1. Planned Parenthood recently filed a lawsuit against Stein and others intending to strike down S.B. 20, which bans elective abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
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, an opponent of abortion restrictions, said he believes that numerous aspects of the new law infringe upon the U.S. Constitution.
On Thursday evening, Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, asked the judge to allow them to defend the law following Stein’s announcement that he would refuse to defend it. A hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday to address the plaintiffs’ request to halt the implementation of the law.
That same Thursday afternoon, Republican lawmakers added an amendment to a different healthcare bill with clarifying changes to S.B. 20, potentially in an attempt to prevent lawsuits. Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, sponsored the amendment.
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.
“This is some clarifying language — the bill will go into effect on July 1 — that kind of timeline with the 10 days and others means that we need to get this done so that something that could be unclear doesn’t go into law, but the clarifications are there at the same time,” Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, said.
The lawsuit will be before U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles on Wednesday morning in Greensboro. Berger and Moore learned Saturday that they will be able to participate in that hearing, even though they are not officially parties to the lawsuit.
In the recently filed paperwork on Monday, Planned Parenthood and Duke Health Dr. Beverly Gray brought attention to the state Senate’s recent deliberations on amendments to S.B. 20.
The court document identifies five specific changes that have been made, impacting various aspects of the law. These changes pertain to the state’s fetal homicide law, the provision allowing for the “advising” of pregnant women regarding abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy, the implementation of 72-hour waiting periods, mandatory reporting of abortions involving minors, and the time limits for medication abortion. The document states that the plaintiffs have specifically contested provisions related to each of these areas within the original law.