Josh Stein responds to GOP calls for NC’s 20-week abortion ban to be reinstated

·2 min read
Ethan Hyman/ehyman@newsobserver.com

Attorney General Josh Stein, responding to Republican legislative leaders on Friday, reiterated his “commitment” to protecting reproductive rights and said a legal review of the state’s 20-week ban on abortion would be completed in the “coming days and weeks.”

Stein’s response came a week after Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore wrote to the attorney general, calling on him to take action to reinstate the 20-week ban in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on June 24 that overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, two landmark rulings that had protected abortion rights for nearly 50 years.

“As Attorney General of North Carolina, I will continue to protect women’s reproductive rights under state law. This commitment is more important than ever,” Stein wrote in a letter to Berger and Moore. “Today there is an increasingly hostile environment toward women’s freedoms. States across this nation are banning abortions in all instances, including rape and incest. We cannot allow efforts to restrict women’s ability to make their own healthcare decisions to succeed in North Carolina.”

Berger and Moore previously said, hours after the Supreme Court’s decision was released, that they would only consider legislation further restricting abortion access in the state when the legislature returns to Raleigh for its next session, possibly in December, or in January.

In the meantime, the Republican leaders called on Stein to take steps to reinstate a law banning most abortions after 20 weeks, which had been in place since 1973, until it was blocked through an injunction issued by a federal judge in 2019, who ruled that the ban violated Casey.

Stein recused himself from that case, Bryant v. Woodall, since he said he would continue to speak out against restrictive abortion laws across the country. The case has been handled by professional staff within the N.C. Department of Justice since then.

On Friday, Stein said N.C. DOJ attorneys were consulting with all of the clients involved in the case, and conducting a legal review of the litigation, “consistent with their ethical and legal obligations.”

Stein wrote to Berger and Moore that the review was in process and would be “completed in the coming days and weeks.”

In their own letter to Stein, the legislative leaders had asked for an indication from Stein’s office that they would move to reinstate the ban, no later than July 1.

Beyond that deadline, Berger and Moore said, the Republican-controlled General Assembly would explore options through its own attorneys to try and have a court lift the injunction on the ban.

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