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North Carolina Abortion Laws


Abortion is legal in North Carolina through 20 weeks. Thereafter, abortion is legal only in the case of a medical emergency.


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 in the case of a medical emergency) 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 pregnant woman, 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 pregnant woman or fetus
  • After 20 weeks: must be a medical emergency
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 pregnant woman 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 pregnant woman any instrument or substance with the intent to give her a miscarriage.

Time Limit for an Abortion

Like many other states, North Carolina puts a time limit on when a pregnant woman can have an abortion. In North Carolina, the time limit is 20 weeks. This is about the middle of the second trimester of pregnancy.

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 pregnant woman.

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 pregnant woman and to ensure that medical facilities are immediately available if the abortion puts the pregnant woman in danger.

Consent Requirements

Informed consent required of women; 72-hour waiting period

For pregnant women 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 woman's life 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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