Abortion is still legal in NC. Here's what the law says

24 June 2022

Abortion remains legal in North Carolina under state law even with Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

North Carolina law says abortions during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy are lawful and that abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy are lawful if there is a medical emergency. That can only be changed if the state General Assembly changes state statutes and the governor signs that legislation into law or if a gubernatorial veto is overridden.

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In 2019, a federal court extended the right to obtain an abortion in North Carolina beyond the 20-week deadline through the point of viability. The ruling in the case, Bryant v. Woodall, was based on Roe v. Wade and subsequent court rulings.

The impact of Friday’s Dobbs decision on that ruling which allows for abortions after 20 weeks but before the point of viability in North Carolina will need to be determined, the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The current state laws on abortion:

  • “It shall not be unlawful, during the first 20 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, to advise, procure, or cause a miscarriage or abortion.” N.C. Gen. Stat § 14-45.1(a).
  • “It shall not be unlawful, after the twentieth week of a woman’s pregnancy, to advise, procure or cause a miscarriage or abortion when the procedure is performed by a qualified physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina in a hospital licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services, if there is a medical emergency as defined by G.S. 90-21.81(5)” N.C. Gen. Stat § 14-45.1(b).

“Medical emergency” is defined by the state as:

  • “A condition which, in reasonable medical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of the pregnant woman as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including any psychological or emotional conditions. For purposes of this definition, no condition shall be deemed a medical emergency if based on a claim or diagnosis that the woman will engage in conduct which would result in her death or in substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” N.C. Gen. Stat § 90-21.81(5).

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