North Carolina lawmakers appeal judge's decision blocking abortion-pill restrictions

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Republican legislative leaders are appealing portions of a federal judge's order this month that blocked several state laws that restrict how abortion pills can be dispensed, including the requirement that only physicians can provide the drugs to patients.

Lawyers for Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore filed a notice Thursday to seek a review by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles declared June 3 that the provisions were preempted by federal law and that prosecutors and health and medical officials, among others, couldn't enforce them. Eagles declared that the provisions were in conflict with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's authority given by Congress to ensure the safe use and distribution of higher-risk drugs.

In addition to the physician-only requirement, Eagles also halted state laws requiring the pills only to be provided in person, the patient schedule a follow-up appointment and the reporting to the FDA of non-fatal “adverse events” related to the use of mifepristone. It is used to end pregnancy in combination with a second drug.

Eagles’ ruling opened the door for patients in North Carolina to receive the pills through pharmacies — prescribed through someone like a nurse practitioner or physician assistant or using telehealth — and take them at home, in keeping with FDA decisions.

But Eagles allowed other provisions in state law to remain enforceable, saying they had either not been expressly reviewed and rejected by the FDA, or focus more on the practice of medicine or on general patient health. They include requiring in-person consultation 72 hours in advance, an in-person examination and an ultrasound before obtaining a prescription. Republicans are not challenging Eagles' decisions on these matters.