Over the past few years, North Carolina has seen several lawsuits from pro-abortion groups and individuals trying to overturn some of the laws in place to protect women and their unborn children. The most recent of these lawsuits was filed by an abortion doctor in North Carolina who is trying to strike down the laws regarding the abortion pill mifepristone in order to increase her capacity to perform abortions.
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Erica Steinmiller-Perdomo to discuss this case and its implications. Erica serves as legal counsel for the Center for Life at Alliance Defending Freedom.
UPDATE: Since recording this interview, a motion was granted allowing Speaker Moore and President pro tempore Berger to be parties in the case.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: In January, an abortionist challenged a lawsuit challenging five of North Carolina’s most effective pro-life laws. Before the merits of that case can be heard, however, a motion seeking to allow legislative leaders to intervene in defense of the laws that they passed must be resolved. Well, our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom are assisting Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Leader Tim Moore with that case, and we’re joined by ADF Legal Counsel Erica Steinmiller-Perdomo, who is working on the case with them.
Erica, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: Thank you so much for having me.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. So talk about this motion. It doesn’t actually address the legality of the pro-life laws at first, right, more of a procedural request?
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: That’s right. So ADF attorneys represent the legislative leaders. That is, as you mentioned, the president pro tem of the Senate, Phil Berger, and the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, Tim Moore. They represent the interests of the state in seeking to defend North Carolina’s laws.
Now, this lawsuit that was filed in North Carolina by an abortion doctor, the primary named Defendant in the case is the attorney general of North Carolina, Joshua Stein. He’s already come out and said that he will not defend North Carolina’s pro-life laws. In fact, he agrees with the Plaintiff’s position in the case that North Carolina’s laws are somehow preempted by FDA regulations. So we’re representing the legislative leaders and hoping to intervene in this case so that the important interests of North Carolina’s legislative leaders and the North Carolina General Assembly can be heard.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So this kind of procedural question isn’t new to North Carolina, is it?
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: No, that’s right. There was actually a prior case where these same legislative leaders sought to intervene in a case that was a challenge to North Carolina’s voter ID laws. That case worked its way all the way up to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court, in fact, held that the legislative leaders are entitled to intervene in North Carolina’s state interest in cases like this where the state interests are not being adequately represented by the parties who are being sued.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: I’ve heard people say, Josh Stein, do your job. Is he not doing his job, or is he within his rights to take this stand as our attorney general?
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: Certainly, the people tasked with leading the state should be coming to the defense of the laws that are enacted in the state at the request of the people. So Attorney General Stein has come out on Twitter saying that he will protect so-called reproductive rights, and that’s exactly why it’s important that the people of the State of North Carolina, who are acting through their elected representatives, it is them who have the power to enact pro-life laws in the state, to enact protections for women and girls from dangers of chemical abortion drugs, for example, and it’s also within the state’s authority to protect the integrity of the medical profession. So, certainly, the state’s leaders should be coming to the defense of those laws.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Right. Are we somewhat glad, though, that he has chosen not to defend it, since I imagine it would be a half-hearted defense? Is there any silver lining here?
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: Well, certainly, I think that’s why he came out and publicly announced and also advised the Court that he would not oppose the legislative leaders’ intervention in this case. So as he has already said he will not have any issue with Moore and Berger entering this lawsuit in order to defend those state laws, so I think that that is certainly a silver lining where they recognize that the legislative leaders are better suited to defend these laws.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay. That’s interesting. So talk about the outcomes of those previous cases that were similar to this one, and do we think that means that they’re going to be able to intervene?
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: Certainly. So the Supreme Court of the United States just last year in 2022 issued its opinion in Berger versus The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP over the state’s voter ID laws, and in that case they specifically said that North Carolina explicitly provides the speaker of the House and the president pro tem of the Senate the authority to enter into these kinds of judicial proceedings challenging North Carolina laws. That certainly should pave the way for their entry into this lawsuit without any issue. They’re certainly entitled to, and we’ve reminded the Court in this case of that important ruling from the Supreme Court that paves the way for protection of North Carolina’s laws in this case.
This is an issue that we’re seeing across the board. ADF represents legislative leaders in multiple states who are seeking to defend state laws against unjust challenges by abortion doctors or even by drug manufacturing companies. For example, in West Virginia, the drug manufacturer GenBioPro, who manufactures a chemical abortion drug, they sued the State of West Virginia. And there we represent the leaders of West Virginia, who are seeking to defend West Virginia’s pro-life laws. And we’re involved in cases, for example, also in Arizona where we filed a motion to intervene on behalf of legislative leaders in Arizona who are seeking to defend the state’s laws protecting unborn children who have fetal anomalies.
So it’s an important time for defenders of state laws to be able to step up and have a say in lawsuits that are challenging important pro-life, pro-woman state laws.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Once the procedural question is answered, let’s talk about the pro-life laws that are at stake here.
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: Sure. So the abortion doctor in this case is challenging no less than five different North Carolina laws, and an entire chapter of the North Carolina Administrative Code. And what those laws do is, one, it prevents anyone who is not a physician from performing an abortion in the State of North Carolina. It also requires that physicians can only perform abortions up to the 20th week of pregnancy, that they need to perform those procedures in person and in a facility that is certified for safe use, that meets certain standards, a facility in which a doctor is able to perform an ultrasound or a clinical examination to determine how far along a woman is in her pregnancy or to diagnose potentially life-threatening conditions like an ectopic pregnancy.
The North Carolina laws also require that a woman give informed consent. So before a woman gives informed consent, a doctor is required to tell her about the medical risks associated with the abortion procedure, including chemical abortion procedures. The doctor is actually required to be in-person physically present with the patient when that first drug of the two-drug chemical abortion drug regimen is administered to the patient. And the doctor is also required to give her information about where she can go to get follow-up emergency medical treatment. And women in North Carolina are entitled to information about alternatives to abortion and the social welfare programs and resources that are available to them if they keep their child.
Importantly, also, North Carolina provides a 72-hour waiting period so that after receiving this information a woman doesn’t feel like she’s being coerced by an abortionist who is working for profit to actually get an abortion. She’s able to receive necessary information about the procedure, about support for her if she chooses to keep her child, and then she has this period of 72 hours in which to reflect.
So those are the common sense protections for women that this abortion doctor is trying to undercut in order to bolster her business.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Does this abortionist lay out what kinds of laws that she wants?
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: So the argument by the abortion doctor in this case is that somehow the FDA’s approval and deregulation of chemical abortion drugs invalidates any state law protection. Now, let me just explain that a little further. The FDA approved chemical drugs for marketing back in 2000. At that time, they realized that these were dangerous drugs, and that they were required to impose certain safety measures. So at the time, they required that these drugs be dispensed in person by a physician, that a woman had to have three different doctor visits throughout the process, and so since its initial approval in 2000, the FDA has been eroding basic safeguards. Now a woman can obtain these drugs without ever seeing a doctor in person, and the drugs can be mailed to her or she can pick them up at a pharmacy.
Meanwhile, North Carolina has been enacting protection for women who are taking chemical abortion drugs because the fact is these drugs are dangerous. One in five women suffers complications from chemical abortion drugs. That’s a fact that the FDA has been ignoring when it eliminates crucial safeguards, and its actions have been motivated by politics, not science. So in this case the abortion doctor is claiming that the FDA’s actions removing essential safeguards makes these drugs available to people without any attendant state laws, so state laws are not able to include any protections that the FDA doesn’t require for marketing of these drugs.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay. So does this have any merit? Is it possible that she has a point here?
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: No, this case completely lacks merit. The Plaintiff in this case, her arguments are based on a misunderstanding and a radical expansion of agency regulatory authority in an attempt to give force of law to federal agency regulation. Those regulations do not carry the force of law and certainly do not invalidate any state law protections. In fact, in Dobbs the Supreme Court specifically said that the states are the ones, the people acting through their elected representatives are the ones that have the authority to enact laws that protect life, promote maternal health, and protect the integrity of the medical profession, and that’s exactly what North Carolina’s laws aim to do.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. And I can’t imagine that Phil Berger and Tim Moore have the time to take on all the intricacies of this case with all they have going on in the North Carolina legislature, so I’m assuming that time and your expertise is the reason why ADF is on board.
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: Yes, that’s right. ADF is involved in several cases involving challenges to chemical abortion drugs, and so we are hoping to be able to support the State of North Carolina in protecting women from the harms of these dangerous drugs.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay. So if you would wrap up for us. This could be confusing to people if they’re listening on the radio, taking their kids to soccer practice or driving down the highway. What is the take-away for us regarding what’s happening with these cases?
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: The takeaway here is that North Carolina protects health, safety and welfare of women and girls from the dangers of chemical abortion drugs, and abortionists can’t disregard state laws protecting women and girls just to bolster their businesses. The fact is chemical abortion drugs are dangerous to women. North Carolina has enacted common sense protections for unborn life and for women and girls from the dangers of these drugs, and those laws are entitled to be defended by legislative leaders who will accurately and adequately protect the state’s interest in this case.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Well, we’re just about out of time. Before we go, Erica, where can our listeners go to follow this case and all the good work that you all do over there at ADF?
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: Thanks. You can find us at ADFLegal.org and on all social media platforms.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. Sounds good. ADF Legal Counsel Eric Steinmiller-Perdomo, thanks so much for being with us today o Family Policy Matters.
ERICA STEINMILLER-PERDOMO: Thank you. God bless.