A Timeline of Abortion-Related Legislation


North Carolina passes a law criminalizing abortion. Abortions are permissible only if physicians determine that a pregnancy could be fatal.


North Carolina is one of a handful of states to legalize abortion in the case of rape and incest or severe fetal abnormalities.


Several months after the Roe v. Wade decision protects the right to abortion across the country, North Carolina passes a law effectively banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. (If a pregnancy is deemed life-threatening, abortions are permitted in hospital settings.)


The state abortion fund is created to help low-income populations pay for abortion services. By 1995, lawmakers have imposed so many financial limitations on the fund—and added so many requirements to its accessibility—that it is essentially defunct.


State lawmakers enact a parental consent law, making it a misdemeanor for medical providers to perform abortions on minors who don’t have permission from their guardians.


Lawmakers pass the Woman’s Right to Know Act, imposing broad limitations on abortion access across the state. Restrictions include a 24-hour waiting period during which abortion seekers receive both counseling to discourage the procedure and ultrasounds that are described to them in detail. The law also allows individuals to sue providers who they believe have failed to adequately adhere to the act.

The North Carolina General Assembly allocates $250,000 of taxpayer money to fund anti-abortion organizations; this number increases with each subsequent budget cycle.


North Carolina largely prohibits all Affordable Care Act health insurance plans, as well as all state, city, and county insurance plans, from covering abortions.


Building on the Women’s Right to Know Act, lawmakers enact another bill—the Women and Children’s Protection Act— which triples the waiting period from 24 to 72 hours, prevents people younger than 18 from working in abortion clinics, and requires medical professionals to send the ultrasounds of many abortion seekers to the Department of Health and Human Services, raising concerns about patient privacy from the federal government.

Lawmakers pass a law prohibiting “sex- selective” abortions, despite there being no evidence that Americans have abortions based on the sex of the fetus.

North Carolina devises a “conscience clause” for medical professionals, which states that providers with moral, ethical, or religious objections to abortions are not required to participate in the procedure.


A federal court strikes down North Carolina’s 20-week ban on abortion as unconstitutional. The decision is later upheld by a federal appeals court in 2021.

Governor Roy Cooper vetoes a number of Republican-backed anti-abortion bills, including one that would require doctors to care for babies born during failed late- term abortions—which Cooper described as criminalization of a nonexistent problem— and another that would ban abortions for the reason of race, sex, or the presence of Down syndrome, which Cooper condemned as an example of excessive government interference in private medical affairs.

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Follow Staff Writer Lena Geller on Twitter or send an email to lgeller@indyweek.com.