A federal appeals court has struck down a North Carolina law that bans late-term abortions, including on viable babies. The law bans abortions after 20 weeks when unborn children feel pain and, by 22 weeks, unborn babies are capable of surviving outside the womb.
Planned Parenthood and a group of abortion practitioners filed a lawsuit back in 2016 challenging North Carolina’s 20-week abortion limit. A federal district court head the suit and issued a ruling striking down the law and, in a decision today, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision.
Now the state must decide if it wants to appeal the ruling to the full 4th Circuit.
The 20-week ban was first passed in 1973 but abortion activists decided to challenge it in 2016 as a method of trying to remove older pro-life laws from the books in every state possible around the country.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., unanimously ruled, however, that lawmakers’ decision to expand abortion restrictions makes it clear they plan to enforce the law.
“Amidst a wave of similar state action across the country, North Carolina has enacted legislation to restrict the availability of abortions and impose heightened requirements on abortion providers and women seeking abortions,” the judges wrote in their decision. “Given these facts, we cannot reasonably assume that the abortion ban that North Carolina keeps on its books is ‘largely symbolic.’ Accordingly, we agree with the district court that the providers have established a credible threat of prosecution and therefore have standing to bring this suit.”
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The was no immediate word on whether the state would seek a hearing before the full 4th Circuit court or appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The law, which protects unborn babies from abortions after 20 weeks, has been in effect for several decades, but state lawmakers amended the law in 2015 to define “emergency” situations when abortions are allowed after 20 weeks. Planned Parenthood and the abortion practitioners said the new definitions are too narrow and restrict their rights. Included in the lawsuit are the abortion chain’s South Atlantic affiliate, Dr. Amy Bryant, Dr. Beverly Gray and Dr. Elizabeth Deans.
The U.S. is one of just a handful of countries that allows abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy, and abortion activists are desperately trying to keep it that way. Despite what abortion activists claim, the laws that prohibit later-term abortions and those that require abortion facilities to meet basic health and safety standards are backed by strong scientific evidence and concerns about the well-being of women and children.
Below is the face of a 20-week-old unborn baby who could be legally killed if the ban is not kept in place.