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North Carolina’s Abortion Laws Overturned by Federal Judge Over FDA Authority Conflict

Payam Javan: A federal judge has overturned some of North Carolina’s abortion medication restrictions, citing a conflict with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority. District Judge Catherine Eagles ruled against state laws limiting the prescription of mifepristone to physicians and requiring in-person prescribing, stating these were “preempted” by federal law. She also removed the mandate to report non-fatal adverse events related to mifepristone to the FDA.

This follows her earlier ruling on April 30, which argued that the state laws obstructed the FDA’s regulatory framework. The judge highlighted that this case questioned when a state could impose additional requirements on an FDA-approved drug, noting the implications for various medications beyond those for pregnancy termination.

However, Judge Eagles upheld some state requirements, such as in-person advance consultation, ultrasound use, in-person examination, blood type testing, and reporting adverse events to state health authorities, which were not explicitly rejected by the FDA.

The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000 for pregnancy termination up to seven weeks gestation, later extending this to ten weeks in 2016. Dr. Amy Bryant, the plaintiff, filed a lawsuit against North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein in January 2023, arguing state laws conflicted with federal regulations. Stein, a Democrat running for governor, chose not to defend the state restrictions, asserting they were overridden by federal law.

Following the ruling, Stein criticized Republican lawmakers for enacting Senate Bill 20, which bans abortion after 12 weeks, calling it a violation of women’s constitutional rights and an obstacle to safe medication abortion.

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