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Federal judge strikes down some of North Carolina’s abortion pill restrictions 

A patient prepares to take mifepristone at the Alamo Women's Clinic in Carbondale, Ill., April 20, 2023.
A patient prepares to take mifepristone at the Alamo Women's Clinic in Carbondale, Ill., April 20, 2023.

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that some of North Carolina’s restrictions on the distribution of abortion pills contradicted federal law.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles blocked the state’s requirement that doctors provide and prescribe the abortion pill mifepristone in person, followed by a subsequent appointment.

The ruling came as the Supreme Court considers a case brought by anti-abortion-rights groups that could reinstate restrictions on the pill.

Eagles delivered a partial victory to a physician who performs abortions and sued state and local prosecutors and state health officials. Dr. Amy Bryant challenged state medication abortion regulations beyond those addressed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000 to terminate a pregnancy in the first 10 weeks. The pills are used in more than half of all U.S. abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization focused on sexual and reproductive health that supports access to abortion.

Eagles said that North Carolina’s restrictions interfered with the goal of Congress to use federal regulators to ensure safe drug distribution.

A state law is preempted if it restricts the sale of an FDA-approved drug after the FDA “considered and rejected that restriction as unnecessary for safe use,” Eagles wrote.

Bryant said Wednesday that she was happy with Eagles' decision, which prevents restrictions "that second-guess or interfere with the FDA's expert judgment."

Eagles ruled that some of North Carolina’s restrictions could stay. She did not block restrictions such as the requirement of an in-person consultation 72 hours in advance, an in-person examination and an ultrasound before prescribing.

These requirements are “directed to broader health concerns and informed consent to the termination of a pregnancy,” Eagles wrote.

The ruling could be appealed. The judge asked the parties to propose written judgments and injunctions by May 21.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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