Appeals court sides with abortion providers, strikes down North Carolina’s 20-week ban

Pro-abortion advocates achieved a new victory thanks to the decision of one federal appeals court.

In a ruling on Wednesday, the Fourth Circuit court struck down a North Carolina ban on abortions after the 20-week mark, siding with abortion providers who challenged the statewide restriction, The Daily Wire reported.

“Credible threat of prosecution”

At issue in the case was a controversy regarding whether the abortion providers had legal standing to challenge the ban — and the appeals court determined that they did.

For more than 140 years, state laws have considered abortion a felony criminal offense, though such laws have not been enforced since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court. North Carolina enacted a law several years earlier allowing for abortion in the case of a “medical emergency.”

In 2015, North Carolina amended its restrictions, adding a 72-hour waiting period and narrowing the definition of “medical emergency.”

Abortion providers challenged those changes and a district court ruled in their favor in 2019. The latest appeals court decision upheld that position, agreeing that providers face a “credible threat of prosecution.”

For its part, the state argued that providers lacked standing because North Carolina has not prosecuted abortion providers in half a century.

“Similar state action across the country”

According to the appeals court, the 2015 amendments “cast doubt on whether North Carolina is truly disinterested in enforcing its abortion laws,” concluded that the state has a “renewed interest in regulating abortion.”

The court further declared that “a wave of similar state action across the country” echoes North Carolina’s effort “to restrict the availability of abortions and impose heightened requirements on abortion providers and women seeking abortions.”

As a result, the unanimous decision found that abortion providers “have established a credible threat of prosecution and therefore have standing to bring this suit.”

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List expressed dismay over the “egregious” ruling, which it said “illustrates exactly why Supreme Court review is needed” on the contentious issue.

Of course, abortion advocates celebrated the development even as many groups remain uneasy in anticipation of a Supreme Court ruling in an upcoming Mississippi case that could threaten the precedent established by the Roe decision.

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