The first bill that banned abortion at 20 weeks — that’s 20 weeks post-fertilization, or 22 weeks based on last menstrual period – was passed in Nebraska in 2011. Since then, dozens of states have introduced similar laws banning abortion just at the edge of fetal viability, and they all hope to nudge the Supreme Court into reconsidering Roe v. Wade. Yet in almost every state where these 20 week bans have been challenged, state or federal courts have ruled them unconstitutional.
Now it has happened again, this time in North Carolina.
The North Carolina 20-week ban was signed into law decades earlier just after Roe was decided, but it was amended in 2015 to be even more strict on the exceptions under which an abortion could still be allowed. By removing the ability to obtain a termination for any reason short of risk of death or “medical emergency,” the new restriction even more directly contradicted Roe, which states that later abortion must be available in cases where a person’s physical or mental health are in danger.
The bill was allowed to go into effect despite that fact, but it was challenged in 2016 in the light of successes in the Supreme Court after Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
While it may have taken years for the challenge to make it through the legal apparatus, the finding in federal court was no different than it has been in nearly all challenges to pre-viability abortion bans: It is simply unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge William Osteen ruled that “week- or event-specific abortion bans” have been repeatedly struck down as violating the Constitution, and ordered the state to revise the amendment within the next 60 days.
“This decision is just a reminder of what the law is,” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Andrew Beck told The Washington Post. “Politicians shouldn’t be meddling with women’s health in a way…