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Planned Parenthood Drops North Carolina Lawsuit

Pro-Life advocates in North Carolina received an unexpected Christmas present this year in the form of a dropped lawsuit by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic (PPSAT). The group, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and several other abortion activists, filed a lawsuit in 2020 in an attempt to overturn five North Carolina pro-life laws. This attempt continued in 2022 when PPSAT filed another legal action attempting to increase access to chemical abortion drugs in the state. On December 22, however, PPSAT filed notice of a voluntary dismissal of the 2020 lawsuit, leaving all of these laws firmly in place.

The Background for the Lawsuit

Between 2011 and 2015, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a plethora of pro-life bills including measures that:

  • Require informed consent prior to a woman having an abortion: This includes written and verbal information on the development of the baby, information on agencies and resources that would support the woman and her child, and information on the negative physical and mental effects that abortion can have.
  • Provide a 72-hour waiting period after the information is provided and before the abortion takes place: This helps to ensure that the woman has ample time to consider her decision.
  • Ban telemedicine abortions by requiring the physician to be physically present when the first drug in the RU-486 abortion drug regimen is administered: This helps to ensure that the woman is making an informed decision and is properly educated and prepared for the potential side effects.
  • Require annual inspections of abortion clinics and other safety regulations: These safety requirements help to minimize the dangers involved in performing an abortion.
  • Allowing only “a qualified physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina” to perform an abortion in the state: This also helps to ensure that women are both safe and making an informed decision.

Because these laws were effective in increasing medical standards and limiting abortions in North Carolina, PPSAT and the other parties sued in 2020 in an attempt to have the laws overturned.

Then in October, 2022 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, PPSAT filed another motion. This one sought an injunction to allow health care providers other than “qualified physicians”—like physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives—to administer chemical abortion drugs in the state. They claimed this was necessary because of the increased number of women coming to North Carolina for abortions after neighboring states enacted more restrictive abortion laws like those prohibiting abortion after conception or when a fetal heartbeat is detected.

In December, attorneys for House Speaker Tim Moore filed a motion asking a three-judge panel to dismiss the case, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. “The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbsremoved any doubt that states have the authority to limit abortion in a way that promotes life and ensures health and safety,” the motion read. “Dobbs overruled Roe and Casey, held there is no federal constitutional right to an abortion, and declared that ‘the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives.'”

After this, PPSAT filed the voluntary dismissal of their lawsuit.

Where the Lawsuit Stands Now

The dismissal doesn’t prevent PPSAT from attempting to challenge these laws in the future, but it does leave them safely in place for now. It is anticipated that further measures to protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers will be considered in the coming year with the new larger conservative majority in the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives, and a conservative majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

“Every woman deserves to have all the information she needs to make the healthiest choice for everyone involved in an unexpected pregnancy,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Denise Harle, director of the ADF Center for Life and one of Moore’s legal representatives. “Tragically, many women turn to abortion as a last resort, unaware of the resources available to them or the harms of abortion. No one benefits more from this situation than abortionists and their facilities. We’re pleased to have favorably closed this case on behalf of the legislators we represent, and to see these life-saving state laws that empower women remain in effect.”


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