Planned Parenthood seeks injunction for two sections of NC abortion law

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  • Planned Parenthood and a Duke Health doctor target two pieces of North Carolina's new abortion law for an injunction. One involves a documentation requirement for doctors using abortion drugs. The other requires abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy to take place in a hospital.
  • U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles is scheduled to hold a Sept. 21 hearing on Greensboro in connection with the lawsuit.
  • Eagles denied a request from legislative leaders and defendants in the case to delay the hearing by four or five days.

Planned Parenthood and a Duke Health doctor have renewed their request for a preliminary injunction against portions of North Carolina’s new abortion law. Documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court target two pieces of the law that otherwise took effect July 1.

Meanwhile, the judge in the case rejected defendants’ request to delay the next hearing in the case.

The new law permits abortions through 12 weeks of pregnancy, but blocks the procedure with exceptions afterward.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles issued a June 30 order temporarily blocking one portion of the law, labeled the “IUP Documentation Requirement” in court paperwork. That section of the law requires doctors to document an intrauterine pregnancy when using abortion drugs.

Planned Parenthood seeks to convert that temporary restraining order into an injunction. The latest court filing also seeks an injunction against the “Hospitalization Requirement.” That section of the law requires abortions performed after 12 weeks of pregnancy to take place in a hospital rather than an abortion clinic. That section of the law is now scheduled to take effect Oct. 1.

“This spring, the North Carolina General Assembly radically rewrote and expanded the state’s abortion restrictions, banning abortion after the twelfth week of pregnancy with few exceptions and passing a law riddled with inconsistencies, irrational requirements, and unconstitutional threats to North Carolinians’ health and rights,” plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote Monday.

“Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims that these provisions violate the Fourteenth Amendment because they impose vague and irrational requirements that subject Plaintiffs to a risk of professional and criminal penalties,” the court filing added. “In turn, Plaintiffs’ patients will face unnecessary delays and additional burdens in accessing abortion — and, in some cases, may be denied abortion entirely — without any benefit to their health or safety. The challenged provisions will therefore cause irreparable harm to Plaintiffs and their patients.”

Eagles is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Sept. 21 in Greensboro. Legislative leaders and the case’s defendants asked last week to delay that hearing by four or five days. Eagles issued an order Monday denying that request. She cited a separate “long-scheduled” trial scheduled Sept. 25-26.

If the case scheduled for trial ends in a settlement, Eagles consented to have the abortion lawsuit hearing delayed to Sept. 25.

Planned Parenthood and Dr. Beverly Gray amended their suit against the state abortion law on July 17.

The new 28-page complaint acknowledged that lawmakers made changes through House Bill 190 that addressed many complaints found in the original lawsuit filed in June against Senate Bill 20. At that time, Planned Parenthood and Gray had asked Eagles to block the entire law from taking effect.

“As a result of the changes to the Act, many of Plaintiffs’ original claims have been resolved,” plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote. Three complaints remain. First, plaintiffs “maintain their due process challenges” to the new law’s “IUP Requirement.” Second, Planned Parenthood challenges the “hospitalization requirement” set to take effect Oct. 1.

Third, “Dr. Gray adds to the Amended Complaint allegations about the vagueness of the Induction Abortion Ban.” The updated lawsuit mentions a “lack of clarity as to whether a hospital can provide an induction abortion, which involves the use of medication, to a rape or incest survivor after the twelfth week of pregnancy.”

“Plaintiffs who fail to comply with the Act will face disciplinary action, and violations of some sections of the Act carry felony criminal penalties,” lawyers wrote in the updated complaint.

The suit labels the abortion law “an attack on families with low incomes, North Carolinians of color, and rural North Carolinians.”

Additional court filings from all parties in the case are expected through Sept. 12.

N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein and state Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley are named defendants in the case, along with local district attorneys and leaders of the N.C. medical and nursing boards.

State Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, are “intervenors” in the case. Eagles issued an order earlier this month allowing legislative leaders to defend the law moving forward. Berger and Moore asked to intervene after learning that Stein would not defend the law in court.

Eagles’ Sept. 21 hearing will not involve testimony from witnesses. “The motion for preliminary injunction will be decided based on the record, and the Court does not contemplate receiving live evidence,” Eagles wrote on July 6.