Planned Parenthood seeks restraining order against new NC abortion law

Members of the N.C. House consider legislation in committee. (Image from

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  • Planned Parenthood is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block North Carolina's new abortion law from taking effect July 1.
  • The abortion provider and a Duke Health doctor filed new paperwork Wednesday in U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles' court.
  • The Republican-led General Assembly voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of the law. It bans most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood is asking a federal judge to issue an order blocking much of North Carolina’s new abortion law from taking effect. A hearing is scheduled Wednesday morning in Greensboro.

The abortion provider filed paperwork Wednesday seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles.

Without court action, major sections of the law will take effect July 1.

“The North Carolina legislature radically rewrote the state’s abortion restrictions over the span of mere days, resulting in a law that is riddled with inconsistencies, irrational requirements, and unconstitutional restrictions,” according to a memorandum from lawyers representing Planned Parenthood and Duke Health Dr. Beverly Gray.

The law “bans abortion after the twelfth week of pregnancy with a few narrow exceptions, makes existing restrictions on abortion more onerous, and adds new, burdensome restrictions,” according to the memo. “Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims that the Act violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution because the challenged provisions either impose vague standards on Plaintiffs, are impossible to comply with, are irrational, or violate the Plaintiffs’ free speech rights.”

“The provisions of the Act that go into effect on July 1, 2023, should be enjoined in their entirety because Plaintiffs’ claims either reach the constitutionality of the Act as whole, or would require enjoining unconstitutional provisions that are so thoroughly intertwined with the core purpose of the Act, that their omission would leave a statute unlike what the legislature intended to be enforced on its own,” Planned Parenthood’s lawyers wrote.

“If not enjoined before it goes into effect, the Act will impose irreparable harm to Plaintiffs and their patients,” according to the memo. “Plaintiffs’ patients will be subject to unnecessary delays and additional burdens in accessing care, in some cases, denying that care entirely. The Act exposes Plaintiffs to potential criminal liability and disciplinary action, and chills their free speech rights.”

The latest court documents arrived five days after Planned Parenthood and Gray filed suit against the abortion law in U.S. District Court.

State lawmakers voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto to approve the law in May.

The new suit argues that parts of the new law, originally known as Senate Bill 20, are unconstitutional. Planned Parenthood argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision did not insulate the N.C. law from a legal challenge.

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.

Both chambers of the General Assembly voted on May 16 to override 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.

Sens. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, Lisa Barnes, R-Nash, Amy Galey, R-Alamance, and Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell, released the following statement on the override: 

“This is a monumental moment for women, children, and families in North Carolina. Our bill puts to rest all of the noise and lies we’ve been hearing this past week, and brings to life a culture that cherishes motherhood and saves the lives of the unborn.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the hearing scheduled Wednesday.