North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is refusing to take actions to have the state’s 20-week abortion ban reinstated.

Stein, a Democrat, released a statement July 21 saying that he would not seek to have the injunction lifted in the Bryant v. Woodall case that had stalled the state’s ban on most abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

“The Department of Justice will not take action that would restrict women’s ability to make their own reproductive health care decisions,” Stein said. “Protecting that ability is more important than ever, as states across the nation are banning abortions in all instances, including rape and incest.”

Stein’s refusal to act sets up a conflict with Republican lawmakers. On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court released its Dobbs v. Jackson decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland and N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, wrote a joint letter to Stein urgent him to act.

“With the legal underpinnings of the Bryant court’s injunction now erased, we respectfully call on you and the Department of Justice to take all necessary legal action to lift the injunction currently barring the full enforcement of the State’s abortion restrictions.”

Moore and Berger noted that if they did not receive a response, “we stand ready to take the necessary steps to restore North Carolina’s abortion laws to where they were before Bryant struck them down.” 

GOP lawmakers did not pursue legislation related to abortion during the 2022 short session, but have promised action in 2023 if they can gain supermajorities in both chambers.

“North Carolinians can also expect pro-life protections to be a top priority of the legislature when we return to our normal legislative session in January,” Moore said.