Appeals court affirms North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban is unconstitutional

North Carolina’s decades-old ban on abortions after 20 weeks is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court found on Wednesday.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirms the decision of a lower court, which first struck down the ban two years ago.

It has been a felony in North Carolina for the past 140 years to procure or administer an abortion, but following the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, the law was amended to bar abortions after 20 weeks, with exemptions for medical emergencies.

The lawsuit was filed by a group of abortion providers and advocates in 2015, after the state legislature narrowed the medical exemption and further restricted the type of doctors permitted to perform abortions to “qualified physicians.”

The amendments also instituted a 72-hour waiting period that women must observe before obtaining an abortion.