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Federal Court Strikes Down North Carolina 20 Week Abortion Ban

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A federal judge ruled Monday that a North Carolina law is unconstitutional, determining that the state cannot enforce a law that restricts abortion access pre-fetal viability.

U.S. District Judge William Osteen ruled Monday that a “week-or event-specific” ban barring abortions after 20 weeks is not constitutional, Reuters reported. “[A] state is never allowed to prohibit any swath of pre-viability abortions outright, no matter how strenuously it may believe that such a ban is in the best interests of its citizens or how minimal it may find the burden to women seeking an abortion,” Osteen wrote in his decision.

Legal abortions may occur to the point of viability as determined by a presiding physician under Osteen’s ruling.

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Monday’s decision follows a 2016 lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union over the North Carolina law. The office of the attorney general is reviewing the ruling, according to spokeswoman Laura Brewer, Reuters reported.

The Center for Reproductive Rights applauded Osteen’s decision in a Tuesday tweet.

A judge also quashed an Iowa law in late January barring women from having abortions upon the presence of a fetal heartbeat, ruling the law is unconstitutional. Judge Michael Huppert prohibited the state from enforcing its “Fetal Heartbeat Bill,” banning abortions upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat. A heartbeat typically manifests roughly six weeks into a pregnancy. The law provided exceptions for rape, incest, and fatal fetal abnormalities.

South Carolina nearly passed a law banning all abortions except those performed in the case of rape, incest and to save the mother’s life, but the bill died in the state’s Senate. Arkansas and North Dakota have heartbeat abortion bans, but the bans have remained ineffective due to a number of injunctions and court orders preventing enforcement of the bans.

Monday’s ruling will not become effective until 60 days after Osteen’s decision, during which time the state can appeal the judge’s ruling or propose other legislation, according to Reuters.

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