RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina Atty. Gen. Josh Stein (D) said Thursday his office won’t seek to reinstate a law banning abortions after 20 weeks following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
A federal court had blocked the law in 2019, citing Roe v. Wade. But now a federal judge is weighing what steps to take next in light of last month’s Supreme Court decision.
Republican legislative leaders had called on Stein and his office “to take all necessary legal action to lift the injunction” in a letter they sent him hours after the Supreme Court’s decision.
“The office does not want to be part of this movement to strip women and girls of their reproductive freedom,” Stein said in an interview Thursday. “What we are seeing in state after state is the restriction on women’s rights to make their own decisions about their bodies, their lives, their futures.”
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) criticized Stein’s announcement in a statement, saying, “Despite his faux outrage, Josh Stein knows full well that the 20-week ban on the books does not limit women’s freedom but protects the unborn when they are capable of feeling pain in the womb. With total disregard for his oath, Josh Stein has chosen the pursuit of higher office over his duty to defend the laws of North Carolina. We are exploring all options to defend the law and protect life in North Carolina.”
Stein recused himself from the case due to positions he’s stated publicly on abortion access.
When asked about his personal position on the issue, he said, “I do not believe that it’s an absolutely unfettered right up until birth. But, certainly, women do have reproductive freedoms and they need to be able to exercise those.”
On July 8, U.S. Judge William Osteen asked parties in the case to submit briefs to him on the matter within 30 days.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, accused the attorney general of “refusing to do his job.”
“I think he’s using this issue as an election issue to help him in his run for governor in two years,” she said.
Republican lawmakers have not passed any bills regarding abortion access since last month’s Supreme Court decision, acknowledging that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) would veto them and that Republicans don’t have the support to override him.
“Here’s what I know. If the Republicans get a supermajority, they will strip women of their reproductive rights. It’s a certainty,” Stein said. “The election this November will determine whether or not women, and tragically even girls, have the right to an abortion in North Carolina, even in the case of rape and incest.”
Neighboring states have moved quickly to put restrictions on abortion in place.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday allowed a law in Georgia to take effect immediately that bans abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy with some exceptions.
Alison Kiser, senior director of external affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said they’ve seen a sharp increase in patients from out of state in recent weeks, accounting for more than one-third of patients coming through their doors.
For example, she said in June, their facilities in North Carolina and Virginia had 95 patients from South Carolina. In the first half of this month, that number has grown to 225 from South Carolina.
“The number of South Carolinians in particular who are being forced to travel out of state for care has already skyrocketed,” said Kiser, adding she anticipates a rise in patients from Georgia as well.