pre-Roe statutes were based on § 230.3 of the Model
Penal Code. Sections
14-44 and 14-45 prohibited all abortions. Section
14-45.1 excepted from the scope of §§ 14-44 and 14-45 abortions
performed by licensed physicians in licensed hospitals when
(1) there was “substantial risk that continuance of the pregnancy
would threaten the life or gravely impair the health of [the
pregnant woman],” (2) there was “substantial risk the child
would be born with grave physical or mental defect,” or (3)
the pregnancy resulted from incest or promptly reported rape. The
statutes did not place any express limitation on the stage
of pregnancy at which an authorized abortion could be performed.
May 1973, § 14.45.1 was substantially amended to conform to
the Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe
v. Bolton. Under
current law, abortions may be performed after the twentieth
week of pregnancy by licensed physicians in licensed hospitals
only “if there is substantial risk that continuance of the
pregnancy would threaten the life or gravely impair the health
of the woman.”
substance of the pre-Roe statutes would not be revived
by a decision overruling Roe v. Wade. Abortions could
be performed for any reason before the twentieth week of pregnancy
and, depending upon how the post-twenty week statute is interpreted,
for virtually any reason thereafter.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-44 et seq.
Id. § 14-45.1. The
statute imposed other conditions. Except in emergency
cases, no abortion could be performed unless the attending
physician and two other physicians examined the woman and
certified in writing the circumstances which they believed
justified an abortion. Id. If the woman seeking
the abortion was a minor, the written consent of her parents
or guardian was required, or her husband, if the minor
was married. Id. There was also a residency requirement. Id.
In a pre-Roe decision,
a three-judge federal court rejected a challenge to the
statutes. See Corkey v. Edwards, 322 F.Supp. 1248
(W.D. N.C. 1971), vacated and remanded, 412 U.S.
Sess. Laws 1057-58, ch. 711, §§ 1, 2.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-45.1(b) (1986).
North Carolina’s statute on abortions performed after the
twentieth week of pregnancy, see N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 14.45.1(b) (2003), does not restrict
such abortions to reasons relating to the pregnant woman’s physical health,
it probably would allow abortions after that stage of pregnancy
for reasons of the woman’s mental health, as well. There
are few, if any, abortions that could not be justified
on such grounds. As the experience in California demonstrated,
mental health exceptions were widely abused. See People
v. Barksdale, 503 P.2d 257, 265 (Cal. 1972) (noting
that more than 60,000 abortions were reported in 1970,
more than 98% of which were performed for alleged reasons
of mental health).