Bloomberg Law
Oct. 17, 2022, 6:59 PM

Doctor-Only Abortion Pill Rule Goes Before North Carolina Court

Mary Anne Pazanowski
Mary Anne Pazanowski
Legal Reporter

Abortion providers in North Carolina asked a state trial court Monday to block enforcement of a law mandating that only doctors can prescribe pills to induce abortions.

The law at issue bars advanced practice clinicians, including physician assistants, certified nurse midwives, and advanced practice registered nurses, from providing medication abortions. It’s part of a 2020 lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, three doctors, and a family nurse practitioner in the North Carolina Superior Court for Wake County.

The complaint asked the court to invalidate multiple state laws on the basis that they violate several fundamental rights protected by the North Carolina Constitution. Other provisions at issue include a 72-hour mandated delay and a counseling provision that requires doctors to give patients a state-authorized message about abortion.

The plaintiffs are likely to win on the APC issue because the ban violates the state constitution’s substantive due process, equal protection, and fruits of their own labor clauses under any standard of review, the providers told the court. Additionally, the harms the provision imposes on providers and patients have increased greatly since the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, and will continue if the ban isn’t halted pending litigation, they said.

Prescribing medications that induce abortions is within an APC’s scope of practice, the providers said. North Carolina allows these practitioners to prescribe the same drugs in other contexts, such as for miscarriage management, they said. The APC ban lacks “any logical justification” and isn’t related to patient health and safety, they said in the complaint.

Abortions currently are illegal in North Carolina after 20 weeks’ gestation, with exceptions for medical emergencies. The procedure can be performed only by licensed physicians.

Judge William L. Osteen Jr., of the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, lifted an injunction in August that had halted North Carolina’s enforcement of the 20-week ban. Under Dobbs, there was no longer any federal constitutional basis for the order, he said.

ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, and Goodwin Procter LLP represent the plaintiffs.

Planned Parenthood has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.

The case is Planned Parenthood S. Atl. v. Moore, N.C. Super. Ct., No. 20 CVS 500147, motion for preliminary injunction filed 10/17/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Anne Pazanowski in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at; Patrick L. Gregory at