North Carolina voters will decide whether to expand its abortion law

Abortion access could hinge on state election results

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Abortion access could hinge on state election results

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s election rules are about to get a lot more liberal.

In November, voters in North Carolina will decide whether to expand the state’s partial-birth abortion law to cover doctors who perform other abortions, such as those involving miscarriages or early pregnancies. If approved, the law would ban abortions in the state at any point before the fetus is viable outside the womb, about 24 weeks into a pregnancy.

In a close contest, it is very likely that the law will be approved despite the lack of a strong majority among the electorate. A victory for pro-life voters could set an important precedent moving forward.

The vote to expand the state’s abortion law is set to be held on Nov. 8.

It’s unclear exactly what the results will be. After eight years of intense effort on both sides, many people who could vote are still undecided and many observers say the choice could be close. North Carolina has never had an abortion debate under a referendum.

But the outcome could impact access to abortion care in the state for years to come. If the law passes, a challenge may follow.

There are already legal and political hurdles to expanding a law to cover abortion providers who do not perform abortions solely as part of a pregnancy and also would not have to provide counseling and referral services as part of their practice. Expanding the law means state law would be different than federal law.

In a lawsuit filed in 2016, the Susan B. Anthony List, a women’s rights advocacy group, and Planned Parenthood sued to block the law. A court blocked the law when it came before a panel of judges, but the three-judge panel granted a stay the following year on grounds the lower court decision could not be appealed. In March, the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of the lower court decision.

Both the governor and state legislature are pushing for the law to be approved

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