North Carolina's ban on abortions after 20 weeks

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that abortions in North Carolina are no longer permitted after 20 weeks of pregnancy, weakening protections in one of the South's last remaining bastions of reproductive freedom.

In response to the June U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, U.S. District Judge William Osteen reinstated an unenforced 20-week abortion ban with exceptions for serious medical emergencies. He claimed this destroyed the legal basis for his 2019 decision that imposed an injunction on the 1973 state law.

His choice goes against the advice of all parties named in the 2019 case, including physicians, district attorneys, and the attorney general's office, all of whom earlier this week submitted briefs pleading with him to uphold the injunction.

In a July 27 friend-of-the-court brief, Republican General Assembly leaders urged Osteen to reinstate the abortion ban after the state's Democratic attorney general, an outspoken abortion rights supporter, rejected their demand that he bring the ban before a judge himself.

After the Supreme Court's decision thrust state-level politics into the spotlight, Osteen's ruling adds fuel to an already contentious midterm election year.

North Carolina Republicans will seek to secure the five additional seats required for a veto-proof supermajority in the state legislature in November, while Democrats defend Cooper's power.

Republican legislators say a successful election season could pave the way for additional abortion restrictions when the General Assembly reconvenes early next year.