Federal court strikes down North Carolina’s ban on aborting pain-capable babies at 20 weeks
March 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – North Carolina cannot ban abortions taking place 20 weeks or later in pregnancy, a federal judge declared Monday in a ruling claiming the longstanding law is unconstitutional.
Since 1973 (the same year the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade), state law banned abortion past 20 weeks except in cases of “medical emergency,” WTKR reported. The legislature amended the law in 2016 to define medical emergencies more narrowly, but Judge William Osteen of the Middle District of North Carolina ruled Monday that the law cannot limit abortions before a child can survive outside the womb.
“State law cannot impose an outright ban that prevents a ‘woman (from) choos(ing) to have an abortion before viability,’” Osteen wrote, invoking “the Supreme Court’s clear pronouncements on the pre-viability right to choose to have an abortion” in Roe as well as “other federal courts that have considered the constitutionality of 20-week bans and similar week- or event-specific abortion bans.”
The judge did, however, stay the order for 60 days so lawmakers could have time to either appeal the ruling or amend the law. The office of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is currently “reviewing the decision,” according to communications director Laura Brewer.
“Today’s decision is a victory for the women and doctors of North Carolina,” celebrated Genevieve Scott, senior staff attorney at the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). “Politicians taking medical options off the table for women at any stage of pregnancy is irrational and dangerous.”
While North Carolina’s ban dates back much further, modern 20-week abortion bans are based partly on the medical evidence that preborn babies can feel pain by that point in development. In 2013, University of Utah neurobiologist Dr. Maureen Condic (whom President Donald Trump has since appointed to the National Science Board) testified before Congress that preborn babies are capable of feeling some level of pain as early as eight to 10 weeks, because the “neural circuitry underlying the most basic response to pain is in place by eight weeks.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled specifically on 20-week bans, but even within Roe v. Wade’s questionable parameters, the justices may be open to an earlier cutoff point for legal abortion.
Pro-abortion Justice John Paul Stevens admitted in 2000’s Stenberg v. Carhart that partial-birth abortion and dismemberment abortions (which are used before 20 weeks) are “equally gruesome,” and it was “simply irrational” to conclude that one was “more akin to infanticide than the other.” Stenberg struck down the federal partial-birth abortion ban, but Gonzales v. Carhart upheld it in 2007.