RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — State officials are appealing a federal judge’s decision that struck down North Carolina’s ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy except in a medical emergency.

A lawyer for North Carolina’s Department of Justice filed the notice of appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, hours before the appeal window was to have expired.

The department is led by Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein, who supports abortion rights. Stein said Monday night that he won’t participate in the appeal because of his stance, leaving it to career lawyers in his agency. The department filed the notice after conferring with Republicans leading the General Assembly, which approved the challenged law. Department lawyers represent the state in legal actions.

Stein publicly criticized recent laws in states to restrict abortion as well as attempts by President Donald Trump’s administration to impose additional hurdles for women seeking abortions.

“In this hostile environment, it is critical for those who support women’s freedoms to speak out,” Stein said in a news release. “I intend to do so, and for that reason, I am unwilling to participate in the appeal of the ruling that struck down the current version of the North Carolina abortion statute.”

U.S. District Judge William Osteen declared the law unconstitutional because the 20-week limit prohibited some abortions before a fetus could live outside the womb. His judgment would allow some women to obtain abortions later but prior to viability.

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