Judge considering blocking parts of North Carolina abortion law won’t halt broader 12-week ban


GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — A federal judge said Wednesday that she won’t temporarily block most of a newly revised abortion law from taking effect this weekend in North Carolina, including a near-ban on the procedure after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles said at a court hearing that she won’t grant the request by lawyers for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and a physician to set aside most of the new restrictions before they are to come into force on Saturday, calling it overbroad.

The 12-week ban, which was approved in the spring by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly and includes new exceptions for rape, incest and “life-limiting” fetal anomalies, would replace the current ban on most abortions after 20 weeks.

The abortion providers claim in litigation that several specific provisions affecting doctors and patients in the new law approved by the General Assembly are so contradictory, vague and unconstitutional that all new restrictions starting July 1 needed to be aside for now.

Eagles said repeatedly during the 2 1/2-hour hearing that she didn’t yet know whether she would issue any temporary restraining order. But any such directive would be a “narrower injunction” limited to specific provisions being challenged in the providers’ lawsuit, she said.

“I don’t see any way that I’m going to enjoin Part I in its entirety,” Eagles said, referring to the portion of the law containing the broad 12-week ban and the rules for carrying it out, Eagles told the attorneys.

Complicating any order she might issue is that the legislature finalized this week revisions to the new law that attempt to fix many of the challenged provisions. That legislation sat Wednesday on the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper. The Democratic governor is a strong abortion-rights supporter who vetoed this spring the abortion law that GOP lawmakers ultimately enacted with an override.

The clean-up measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, with some Democrats who fought the new abortion law stating it was better to make a very bad law less onerous. The state constitution gives Cooper until July 7 to sign the bill or veto it. Otherwise, it will become law without his signature. He can act before the 10-day deadline.

Ellis Boyle, an attorney for House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, argued that a temporary restraining order should be fully denied, pointing to the strong legislative support for the revisions. Such orders last 14 days, but they can be extended.

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