Planned Parenthood asks North Carolina court to allow non-physicians to provide medical abortion to meet out-of-state demand

Abortion restrictions in the South are leading to an overburdened system and delaying access to abortion in states where abortion is legal, according to a court case in North Carolina this week.

Medical professionals asked a state court to to block a ban that stop physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives, known as advanced practice clinicians, to perform medical abortions. If allowed, more people would be able to access abortion services instead of facing an ‘insurmountable barrier’, according to SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collectivewho filed the petition with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

“The ban on qualified advanced practice clinicians from performing medical abortion is completely arbitrary, medically unnecessary, and profoundly limits access to abortion in North Carolina,” said Anne Logan Bass, nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in a Press release.

Monday’s motion against the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives is part of a 2020 lawsuit challenging several restrictions on abortion providers, but the motion specifically seeks temporary approval for APC provide abortion services while the trial is ongoing.

Planned Parenthood claimed that since the Dobbs decision, more patients from neighboring states that have banned abortions flocked to North Carolina to seek abortions, leading to longer delays in accessing abortions.

According to the motion, more than a third of patients who had abortions at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic between July 1 and September 30 were from out of state, totaling 1,317 people. During the same period last year, only 322 patients came from out of state for abortions.

In North Carolina, abortion is legal until 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“Let’s be clear: Abortion is still legal in North Carolina, but a politically motivated abortion restriction has created an insurmountable barrier for too many pregnant women in the state and region. said Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.

Medical abortion involves a combination of drugs – mifepristone and misoprostol – in pill form within a specified time frame. Although APCs are currently allowed to prescribe the drugs for miscarriage, they are prohibited from prescribing them for abortion, known as the “APC ban”.

“This, in turn, has exacerbated the long wait times experienced by North Carolinas seeking abortions, forcing them to remain pregnant against their will for longer periods of time, potentially pushing them over the edge of gestational age for medical abortion, and more,” Planned Parenthood said in the motion.

In one North Carolina city, Asheville, wait times for medical abortion appointments have dropped from 12 days in July, August and September 2021 to 21 days since July 1 of this year.

The agencies filing the petition say the “APC ban” violates the state’s Equal Protection Clause because it discriminates on the basis of sex and treats patients who wish to terminate their pregnancies differently from those who want to carry their pregnancy to term.

A spokesperson for the North Carolina House of Representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It remains to be seen whether the judge will approve the motion for a temporary injunction and allow CPAs to provide medical abortion. A trial is scheduled in the original case for September 2023.

Photo: ericsphotography, Getty Images

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