With less than 48 hours until North Carolina’s recently passed 12-week abortion ban goes into effect, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has signed last-minute changes initiated by Republicans into law.
On June 22, as lawmakers’ work was winding down for the week, Republicans in the N.C. Senate added one more bill to the calendar. Sen. Joyce Krawiec, one of the main sponsors of the abortion law, then introduced an amendment to the bill that included “technical clarifying changes” to the abortion law. The amendment was adopted, and the bill went on to pass Tuesday with broad, bipartisan support.
“In addition to being dangerous for women, the rushed abortion ban was so poorly written that it is causing real uncertainty for doctors and other health care providers,” Cooper wrote in a statement announcing he had signed House Bill 190. “This bill is important to clarify the rules and provide some certainty, however we will continue fighting on all fronts the Republican assault on women’s reproductive freedom.”
The changes in the bill were likely prompted by a lawsuit against the 12-week abortion ban filed earlier in June by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and a physician who performs abortions. They alleged that the law had several provisions that were vague and irrational, and sought a temporary block on the enforcement of portions on the law, including the 12-week ban.
A hearing for the lawsuit took place Wednesday, but U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles indicated that she would wait until as late as Friday to make a decision. Eagles had also indicated during the hearing that she was waiting to see if Cooper would sign the changes into law, which would resolve some of the issues in the case. The major provisions of the abortion ban will go into effect Saturday.
During the hearing, both the plaintiffs and defendants agreed that the new changes would resolve issues around several provisions in the law:
- A 72-hour waiting mandate for getting an abortion after receiving medical counseling.
- A 10- or 12-week discrepancy on when a physician can perform a medical abortion.
- A three-day reporting requirement for doctors after performing an abortion
However, there was disagreement between the two sides on what impact the changes would have on other provisions, including one that could be interpreted to restrict people from advising about legal abortions outside of the state. Therefore, Eagles will still have to make a decision on whether to block certain parts of the abortion law. Eagles ruled out the possibility of her striking down the entire law, saying it would be “over-broad relief.”
The changes clarify that medication abortions are lawful through 12 weeks. The original bill had stated that physicians providing drugs for medication abortions needed to verify that the age of the fetus was “no more than 70 days,” or 10 weeks. The legality of medication abortions between 10 and 12 weeks had been unclear.