Abortion Law in North Carolina

In 1881, the General Assembly passed two laws making it a crime to perform an abortion and to cause injury to a pregnant woman that causes a miscarriage. In 1973, when the Supreme Court issued the Roe opinion in January, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law in July of that year essentially codifying Roe. The law legalized abortion up to 20 weeks for any reason. After 20 weeks, abortions could be performed to protect the “health” of the mother. This health exception was so broad that it essentially made abortion available for any reason.

In 2015, this law limiting abortion at 20 weeks gestation was strengthened with a requirement that the only exception allowing abortion after 20 weeks is a “medical emergency” resulting in death or major bodily impairment for the mother. A little more than 3 years ago, a federal district judge in Greensboro declared our 20-week abortion ban unconstitutional under Roe and enjoined the law. The judge ruled that North Carolina could not limit abortion prior to viability and that abortionists could determine at what point the unborn child is viable. Leaving the decision of viability up to the doctor who wants to kill the unborn child essentially means that abortion is legal up to the day of delivery in North Carolina.

There is only one reason that can render an abortion illegal in North Carolina – if the purpose is to select or deselect the sex of the child. Governor Cooper vetoed HB453, The Human Life Nondiscrimination Act, which would have prohibited abortions that discriminated because of the race of the child or because the child has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome. However, there are limitations on abortion in North Carolina that have been enacted in the last 25 years, and, as a result, we have reduced abortion rates about 25 percent from the peak rate.

In North Carolina, we have the following restrictions on abortion: 

  • Abortion must be performed by a Board certified OBGYN.
  • Abortion must be performed in a hospital or a clinic certified by the State.
  • An ultrasound must performed prior to an abortion to determine the gestational age. If the mother requests to see the ultrasound, the abortionist cannot deny her that right.
  • The Department of Health & Human Services must annually inspect every abortion clinic and report violations of the rules for abortion clinics on a special website.
  • No person under age 18 may work in an abortion clinic.
  • Abortions may not be done for purposes of selecting the sex of the unborn child.
  • After 16 weeks, the doctor performing an abortion must record and report to the Department of Health & Human Services the probably gestational age of the child, the methodology for the abortion, the measurements of the child, and an ultrasound.
  • After 20 weeks, the doctor performing an abortion must record and report to the Department of Health & Human Services the findings and analysis used to determine there was a “medical emergency”.
  • No physician, nurse, or other health care provider shall be required to perform or participate in an abortion if they have a moral, ethical, or religious objection.
  • No hospital or other health care facility shall be required to perform an abortion.
  • No abortion can be performed on a woman without her voluntary and informed consent.
  • There is a 72-hour waiting period before the woman can have an abortion.
  • The doctor must be physically present for the abortion. In the case of chemical abortions, this means the doctor must administer the first pill in person to the woman. No telehealth abortions are allowed.
  • A woman has a right to withhold or withdraw her consent to an abortion at any time. - A child under the age of 18 cannot be forced to have an abortion without her consent.
  • Parental consent is required for an abortion on a child under the age of 18. In special circumstances, a judge may grant consent.
  • No person can sell the remains of an unborn child resulting from an abortion.
  • State and local governments may not pay for abortions, except where the mother’s life is at stake or in cases of rape or incest. The state abortion fund for the poor was virtually eliminated in 1996. In 2012, the State Health Plan stopped paying for elective abortions. In 2013, cities and counties stopped paying for elective abortion. Health insurance policies purchased by North Carolinians on the Obamacare exchange cannot pay for elective abortions.

Despite these limitations, North Carolina law allows for a child which has viability outside the womb at 20 weeks, to be brutally killed. Many times at this gestational period, this is done by using sharp instruments, as well as suction devices and forceps, which are used to cut up and extract the unborn baby piece by piece. While the mothers are given pain medication, the babies are not, making abortion a painful, violent death. There is no such thing as a safe abortion – someone always dies.