RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s Democratic attorney general declined Thursday to meet Republican legislative leaders’ demand that he ask a federal court to lift an injunction on a state law banning nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“The Department of Justice will not take action that would restrict women’s ability to make their own reproductive health care decisions,” Attorney General Josh Stein said. “Protecting that ability is more important than ever, as states across the nation are banning abortions in all instances, including rape and incest.”
Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, on the day of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned nationwide abortion protections, asked Stein to “take all necessary legal action” to reinstate the 20-week ban, warning his inaction would lead them to take legal action of their own.
A 2019 federal court ruling, affirmed last year by the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, barred the execution of the 20-week ban based on precedents set in Roe v. Wade and an associated 1992 ruling, both struck down June 24. The ruling extended the right to an abortion in North Carolina until fetal viability, which typically falls between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Berger and Moore argue the June 24 Supreme Court ruling invalidated the legal underpinning of that decision and opened the door for them to reinstate the ban.
Though Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, lawmakers did not pass any additional abortion restrictions during the legislative session that ended July 1. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is a strong abortion-rights supporter whom Moore said would likely veto abortion legislation, but his veto power could soon be nullified if Republicans win a few additional seats in November.
Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/H_Schoenbaum.
Hannah Schoenbaum, The Associated Press