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North Carolina Abortion Laws

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which returned to the states the power to regulate, even prohibit, abortion. North Carolina abortion laws are relatively restrictive, requiring the written consent of parents or guardians, banning abortion after 20 weeks (except to save the life or health of the mother), and the requirement that abortion providers be licensed medical doctors.

The following chart lists the main provisions of North Carolina's abortion laws, while a more detailed description follows. See FindLaw's Reproductive Rights section to learn more.

Code Section 14-44 to 46; 90-21.6 to 90-21.10
Statutory Definition of Illegal Abortion Willfully administer to mother, prescribe, advise, procure substance or instrument with intent to destroy child or procure miscarriage
Statutory Definition of Legal Abortion
  • First 20 weeks of pregnancy: no medical requirements regarding mother or fetus
  • After 20 weeks: must be substantial risk that would threaten life, health of mother
Penalty for Unlawful Abortion
  • Class H felony: Fine and/or imprisonment up to 10 years 
  • Class I felony: Fine and/or imprisonment up to 5 years
  • Class 1 misdemeanor for failing to obtain parental consent
Consent Requirements Informed consent of all women with 72-hour waiting period; Unemancipated minor needs written consent plus written consent of parent/guardian, exception for medical emergency or judicial waiver
Residency Requirements for Patients -
Physician Licensing Requirements Licensed M.D., licensed hospital or clinic

Illegal Abortions

Although North Carolina abortion laws can be restrictive, the definition of an illegal abortion is relatively straightforward. Abortions are illegal by definition if a doctor or other person gives the mother any instrument or substance with the intent to give the mother a miscarriage.

Time Limit for an Abortion

Like many other states, North Carolina puts a time limit on when a mother can have an abortion. In North Carolina, the time limit is 20 weeks. This is about the middle of the second trimester of pregnancy. One of the purposes for having a time limit on the abortion is because the longer a mother waits to have an abortion, the higher the risk that the abortion will risk injury to her.

Exceptions to the Time Limit

Although doctors normally can only perform abortions within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, there is an exception if the pregnancy causes a substantial risk to the health or life of the mother.

Who may perform abortions?

In North Carolina, only a licensed M.D., a doctor or physician, may perform an abortion in a hospital or clinic that has a license to perform abortions. This is to ensure that the abortion is as safe as possible for the mother, and to ensure that medical facilities are immediately available if the abortion puts the mother in danger.

Consent Requirements

Informed consent required of women; 72-hour waiting period

For mothers under the age of eighteen, written parental consent is required to have an abortion. However, there is an exception to the consent requirement if the abortion is medically necessary, or if a judge grants a waiver to the parental consent requirement. Judges often grant parental consent waivers when telling a young woman's parents about her pregnancy or desire to get an abortion may put the young mother in danger.

Illegal Abortion Penalties

An unlawful abortion is a Class H felony in North Carolina, and is punishable by up to ten years in prison. If the judge determines that the unlawful abortion is a Class I felony, the punishment is five years in prison at most. Failing to obtain parental consent is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Get Help From a North Carolina Family Law Attorney

Abortion is generally regulated by a mixture of health care laws and criminal laws, but Americans have the legal right to an abortion. Because of the overlap of these legal areas, it may be wise to speak with a qualified attorney. There are many experienced family law attorneys throughout North Carolina who can help you with your legal questions.

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