By LAURA BITTNER
(CN) – A trio of North Carolina doctors joined Planned Parenthood in suing the state over what they argue are unreasonable restrictions on a woman’s right to have an abortion.
In a complaint filed in the Middle District of North Carolina, the lead plaintiffs, doctors
Amy Bryant, Beverly Gray and Elizabeth Deans, say changes the state made to its abortion law effective Jan. 1 2016, unilaterally decreased the allowable reasons for an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Prior to Jan. 1, North Carolina law allowed physicians to perform abortions after 20 weeks if continuing the pregnancy posed a threat to the of the women or would “gravely impair” her health.
The amended law only allows abortions after 20 weeks if a pregnant woman were to sustain irreversible impairment of a major bodily function due to the pregnancy, or if the pregnancy would result in her death.
The doctors say the distinction between the old and new laws denies patients access to previability abortions.
The doctors say under the new law patients with pre-existing health issues or issues caused by the pregnancy, would have to wait until their condition worsens (to the point of endangerment) to be able to legally have a physician perform an abortion.
They argue “forcing a woman who needs medical treatment to wait until her condition deteriorates to the point that it poses a medical emergency is contrary to the standard of care and will expose her to significant health risks.”
The plaintiffs also contend that regardless of what the state’s intent was in amending the law, any ban on abortions before the end of the previability period are invalid due to the U.S. Supreme Court precedent that sets the end start of fetal viability at 24 weeks.
The doctors seek declaratory relief and a permanent injunction preventing the state from enforcing the law.
They are represented by Christopher Brook of the ACLU of North Carolina.
Representatives of the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.