DURHAM — North Carolina Republican legislative leaders can defend in federal court the state restrictions on dispensing abortion pills that are being challenged by a physician, a judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge William Osteen granted the request by House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger to formally intervene in the lawsuit filed in January.
Berger and Moore specifically sought involvement after the office of Democratic state Attorney General Josh Stein told the legislators that it believed the arguments by the lawsuit plaintiff about the drug mifepristone were “legally correct.” State attorneys representing Stein, a case defendant but an abortion rights supporter, said the same in a written response to the lawsuit.
Osteen’s ruling on Friday wasn’t surprising. State law already gives the House speaker and Senate leader the ability to intervene in litigation to defend North Carolina’s statutes. A U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer involving North Carolina’s voter ID law also affirmed their ability to enter cases.
Dr. Amy Bryant — the physician who sued — as well as Stein and other defendants didn’t oppose the legislators’ intervention request.
Bryant’s lawsuit alleges state laws and rules conflict with her ability to provide mifepristone to patients. She said those restrictions should be preempted by powers the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hold to regulate the drug.
Osteen told Berger and Moore to file a written response to the lawsuit by March 24. In a previous document, the legislative leaders wrote that North Carolina abortion regulations apply “with equal force to both surgical and chemical abortion procedures” and that Bryant’s arguments would mean the state couldn’t regulate the safety of chemical abortions.