Federal judge rules North Carolina residents can take abortion drug at home


A federal judge in North Carolina blocked certain state restrictions on access to abortion pills but upheld others, granting only a partial victory to abortion rights advocates in the state.

Judge Catherine Eagles, an Obama nominee, ruled that state law preventing access to abortion medications for home use conflicted with the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Eagles wrote that the state laws “frustrate the congressional goal of establishing a comprehensive regulatory framework under which the FDA determines conditions for safe drug distribution that do not create unnecessary burdens on the health care system or patient access.”

The ruling, filed Monday, prevents North Carolina from requiring that abortion medications be prescribed and picked up in person, and other restrictions on access. It also prevents local prosecutors from charging people with violating the laws.

The restrictions Eagles upheld include requiring an in-person consultation before receiving a prescription and an ultrasound. She said that the FDA had not reviewed and rejected those requirements.

Dr. Amy Bryant, who provides abortion care and is the plaintiff in the case, said in a statement that Eagles’ ruling will “allow for increased access to safe and effective medication abortion care throughout North Carolina.”

Attorney General Josh Stein (D) chose not to put up a defense in the suit, contending that the restrictions were already preempted by the FDA. Stein, an abortion rights advocate, is the Democratic nominee for governor.

Stein said the ruling “helps women regain some control over their personal health care decisions.”

The ruling could be appealed by the defendants, the state House Speaker and Senate leader. The Supreme Court is set to hear a separate case regarding the abortion pill mifepristone this term, which could impact the North Carolina case.

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