Top Republican leaders ask judge to dismiss lawsuit over NC abortion pill laws

North Carolina Republican General Assembly leadership is Senate leader Phil Berger, left, and House Speaker Tim Moore, right.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate leader Phil Berger filed a motion Friday requesting dismissal of a lawsuit that would block restrictions on abortion pills.

The lawsuit centers around a medication called mifepristone, the first part of a two-pill regimen to end a pregnancy. The plaintiff, Dr. Amy Bryant, argued that state restrictions on abortion pills conflict with the far more lenient federal regulations.

Bryant, a Triangle abortion provider, said North Carolina’s laws prevent her from providing care according to her best medical judgment and limits patients’ access to health care.

The lawsuit

For the past several years, the Food and Drug Administration has slowly peeled away restrictions on mifepristone — allowing health care providers other than doctors to prescribe the medication and retail pharmacies to dispense it.

However, North Carolina state laws place heavier restrictions on the pill, allowing doctors to provide the pill only in person at certified facilities, and after a 72-hour waiting period.

Bryant’s lawsuit asks the Federal District Court to confront the differences between state and federal law and consider whether North Carolina’s laws on the pill are an overstep.

The plaintiff’s argument — which is predicated on the FDA’s approval of this medication — could face trouble in the coming weeks depending on how a Trump-appointed judge rules in a pivotal abortion pill lawsuit out of Texas. A decision to overturn the FDA’s approval of mifepristone could undermine Bryant’s argument that the state should default to federal regulations.

Bryant initially named N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein, DHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley, a district attorney and members of the state medical board as defendants in this case. The Republican legislators asked to be added as defendants after Stein said he would not defend the state’s abortion laws, writing that the plaintiffs were “legally correct.”

Teddy Rosenbluth covers science and health care for The News & Observer in a position funded by Duke Health and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.