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Federal judge overturns North Carolina law banning abortions after 20 weeks

He said that any ban on abortions before viability was unconstitutional

BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

A judge in North Carolina has overturned the state's law banning abortions after 20 weeks.

How early in the pregnancy is this?

At 20 weeks, which is exactly halfway through an average pregnancy, a baby is about 6 1/2-inches long.

Thanks to constantly improving medical science, 80 percent of babies born at 26 weeks survive and that number increases for every additional week of pregnancy. While survival at earlier weeks is less likely, in November NBC News reported on a girl who had been born at only 21 weeks in 2014 and had grown into a healthy toddler by 2018.

What did the judge say?

This North Carolina law had existed since 1973. It had been challenged by pro-choice groups, including Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In his opinion, District Judge William Osteen said that any laws that prevented abortions "at any point prior to viability" were unconstitutional. He said his decision "accords universally with those of other federal courts that have considered the constitutionality of 20-week bans and similar week- or event-specific abortion bans."

The judge argued that "a state is never allowed to prohibit any swath of pre-viability abortions outright, no matter how strenuously it may believe that such a ban is in the best interests of its citizens or how minimal it may find the burden to women seeking an abortion."

Osteen did grant 60 days before his ruling takes effect. During this time period, abortions after 20 weeks will still be illegal, and the state can appeal his ruling or try to pass new legislation that would address this issue.

One last thing…
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