Earlier this year, North Carolina passed a new law that further limited abortions, increased restrictions and safety measures regarding clinics and providers that perform abortions, and included a wide variety of provisions to assist women who decide to keep their baby. Even though each of these provisions are common sense, Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit that seeks to undo some of these measures and expand their ability to perform abortions.
This week, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Julia Payne, Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, to discuss the legal attempt that Planned Parenthood is making to thwart North Carolina’s newest pro-life law.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. The battle to protect the most innocent North Carolinians persists as abortionists continue to challenge a variety of recently passed pro-life measures in the courts. We’re joined by Julia Payne, who serves as legal counsel for the Center for Life at Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF is representing North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Phil Berger in the most recent legal challenge to North Carolina’s new pro-life law. Julia Payne, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
JULIA PAYNE: Thank you for having me on.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Start off with which specific pro-life policies are being challenged, and where’s that challenge coming from?
JULIA PAYNE: Planned Parenthood and one of its doctors are challenging two North Carolina pro-life laws. So, the first law is what’s called the intrauterine pregnancy documentation requirements. And so, that law requires a physician who’s prescribing chemical abortion drugs to document that they have performed an ultrasound and seen the unborn child in the woman’s uterus. And that’s important because it helps the doctor to rule out ectopic pregnancy. And then the second law challenged requires that any abortions after 12 weeks take place in a hospital.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay, those seem fairly reasonable. Can you talk a bit about why they’re being challenged?
JULIA PAYNE: Planned Parenthood is challenging the documentation requirements because it wishes to perform abortions on women whose pregnancy is too early; it’s not far enough along for the baby to be seen by ultrasound in the uterus. But the danger with that is that, so an ectopic pregnancy is, of course, a pregnancy outside the uterus, and ectopic pregnancies happen in one and 50 women. And those pregnancies are very dangerous. Usually, that means that the baby is growing inside the woman’s fallopian tube, and the fallopian tube can rupture, and if not treated immediately, the woman can die.
And so Planned Parenthood wants to do abortions before it’s possible to rule out an ectopic pregnancy, and the reason that’s a problem is because ectopic pregnancies cannot be treated using chemical abortion drugs. And the chemical abortion drugs can even mask the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. And so the second requirement, the hospitalization, is important because the risk of complications in abortion, as Planned Parenthood acknowledges in its findings, the risk of complications goes up with gestational age. And so Planned Parenthood, of course, doesn’t like that requirement because that means that it cannot perform abortions in its outpatient clinic.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Why would they be against having to do some of these procedures in hospitals? Is it just a money thing?
JULIA PAYNE: Yes. So, Planned Parenthood has a history of challenging regulations that affect its bottom line. And hospital abortions both can’t happen at an outpatient center like a Planned Parenthood clinic, and they are more expensive as well.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: The first thing that has to happen is procedural, right? And we’ve seen this in some of the other cases that have come before the court. What’s going on with the case procedurally, and what has to happen before we can actually even look at the question?
JULIA PAYNE: So, Planned Parenthood has requested a preliminary injunction. Those are very common in cases challenging brand-new laws that were just passed. So, what Planned Parenthood wants is for the court to say that this law cannot go into effect until the rest of the litigation plays out. And so there’s a hearing for that scheduled on September 25th, and we would expect a decision from the court in the weeks following that hearing. And the preliminary injunction hearing, actually, will delve into the merits of the case because one of the things that Planned Parenthood has to prove is a likelihood of success on the merits. So we represent the President Pro Tem of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, and one of our ADF attorneys will be participating in that hearing and defending their position.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So originally, the case challenged the ban on most abortions after 12 weeks, but the plaintiffs dropped that portion of the suit. So does that mean North Carolina’s 12-week abortion ban is safe now?
JULIA PAYNE: So the North Carolina legislature amended the 12-week law in June, and the court, in this case, held that those amendments solved Planned Parenthood’s alleged problems with that law. And so those portions of the law are no longer at issue in this case.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: How does this case relate to other cases challenging North Carolina’s pro-life laws?
JULIA PAYNE: Alliance Defending Freedom is involved in two other cases in North Carolina; one, Planned Parenthood v. Moore, was actually Planned Parenthood voluntarily dismissed that case in December. And that was a state court challenge to five different North Carolina informed consent and health and safety laws. And so Planned Parenthood voluntarily dismissed that, which means that the North Carolina Supreme Court has never recognized any state right to abortion. And then we’re also involved in a case called Brian v. Stein, which is in federal court. And the plaintiff in that case is arguing that Federal law prohibits North Carolina from regulating chemical abortion. But we had a recent victory on the same issue in a case called GenBioPro, which is out of West Virginia. So, we are hoping to use that case to bring us to victory in North Carolina as well.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay, so let me go back to something that you said. You said that in North Carolina, the state court has never recognized any right to abortion in our state. Is that what you said? If so, explain what you mean by that.
JULIA PAYNE: So, the North Carolina Supreme Court has never recognized a state right to abortion. This case, however, is in federal court. And, of course, the federal courts, the US Supreme Court, recently rejected any federal right to abortion and held that the Federal Constitution did not prohibit states from protecting the health and safety of pregnant mothers. And so it’s important for the court here to reaffirm that states may pass pro-life laws to affirm the dignity of women and unborn children.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So is it important that the state Supreme Court has never recognized this right? Why is that important?
JULIA PAYNE: It is important. In many states, Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers are bringing state court challenges to pro-life laws. And so we’re defending several of those laws across the country. But here in North Carolina, there is no state right, and so that’s why Planned Parenthood is in federal court here.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Anything else that you can think of historically that will play into the outcomes of these cases besides what you’ve already mentioned?
JULIA PAYNE: Well, the Supreme Court recently held that North Carolina should be free to protect the health and safety of women and girls in the state. And North Carolina may also ensure that women have real support for their pregnancies. For instance, the same law also supports low-income women by appropriating $3.5 million for grants to local health departments and nonprofit community health centers and $2.8 million for Medicaid benefits relating to pregnancy and prenatal care.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: I think Planned Parenthood does a really good job of positioning themselves as like the only health option for people in these lower-income communities. But that’s not the case, is it?
JULIA PAYNE: Not at all. So, women have many places to turn if they are in a pregnancy, and they are looking for support to keep their baby or perhaps to give their baby up for adoption. For instance, in every state, there are pregnancy centers that are designed to help women and provide both material support and sometimes parenting classes, ultrasounds, and services like that.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: How important are these cases? We know in the wake of last year’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, all of this, the impetus was sent back to the states to set laws. How important are each of these individual cases, in your opinion?
JULIA PAYNE: I would say each case is very important. So, in this case, in particular, Planned Parenthood is aware of the Dobbsdecision, and they know that the federal constitution doesn’t prohibit states from enacting pro-life laws. And yet, they’re trying to still use the federal constitution to prohibit North Carolina from having the IUP documentation and the hospitalization requirements, which are both very common-sense laws. And so it’s important that the court here reaffirms that the state has the ability to pass these pro-life laws which protect both women and unborn children.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So, ADF, you have a great opportunity to see every state because you guys help people and organizations all over the country. What is your sense of how hopeful we should be? I know there have been some losses in other states. Are you hopeful that the pro-life cause is winning? Are we still like in the heat of it? Or will we remain in the heat of it forever and ever?
JULIA PAYNE: I’m very hopeful. We’ve had a lot of wins across the country. And there are several states that are now protecting life from its earliest stages. And several more where Alliance Defending Freedom is assisting that state in defending its law.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay. Well, we’re just about out of time for this week. Before we go, Julia Payne, where can our listeners go to follow this case here in North Carolina and all the good work that you all are doing there at Alliance Defending Freedom?
JULIA PAYNE: They can go to ADFlegal.org. And they can follow us on social media.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right, Julia Payne, legal counsel for the Center for Life at ADF. Thanks so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.
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