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North Carolina Democrats have introduced legislation to codify abortion protections into state law as Republicans are discussing early prospects for further restrictions. Their legislation, filed Wednesday in both chambers, would prohibit the state from imposing barriers that might restrict a patient’s ability to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability, which typically falls between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Current state law bans nearly all abortions after 20 weeks, with narrow exceptions for urgent medical emergencies that do not include rape or incest. House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters he didn’t expect the Democrats’ bill to get considered.

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Supporters of abortion rights have filed separate lawsuits challenging abortion pill restrictions in North Carolina and West Virginia. The lawsuits were filed Wednesday. They are the opening salvo in what’s expected to a be a protracted legal battle over access to the medications. The lawsuits argue that state limits on the drugs run afoul of the federal authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency has approved the abortion pill as a safe and effective method for ending pregnancy. More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than surgery.

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A lawyer representing the leaders of North Carolina’s state employee health plan has defended its exclusion of gender affirming treatments before a federal appeals court. State Treasurer Dale Folwell and the State Health Plan’s executive administrator are seeking to overturn a trial court order demanding that the plan pay for “medically necessary services,” including hormone therapy and some surgeries, for transgender employees and their children. Attorney John Knepper told a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday that the plan routinely excludes some medically necessary procedures based on cost, but does not make any of those determinations based on sex or gender.

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The University of Wisconsin System has joined a number of universities across the country in banning the popular social media app TikTok on school devicies. UW System officials made the announcement Tuesday. A number of other universities have banned TikTok in recent weeks, including Auburn, Arkansas State and Oklahoma. Nearly half the states have banned the app on state-owned devices, including Wisconsin, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and South Dakota. Congress also recently banned TikTok from most U.S. government-issued devices over bipartisan concerns about security. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. Critics say the Chinese government could access user data.

National & World AP Stories

Israel’s defense minister signaled Friday that the military would stop its airstrikes if Palestinian militant groups halted rocket attacks, a day after the deadliest Israeli raid in decades raised the prospect of a major flare-up in fighting. After a limited exchange of Palestinian rockets and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza overnight, residents of Jerusalem were on edge Friday morning. Israel’s defense minister instructed the military to prepare for new strikes in the Gaza Strip “if necessary.” The bombardments followed an Israeli raid in the flashpoint Jenin refugee camp, which turned into a gun battle that killed at least seven militants and a 61-year-old woman and sparked clashes elsewhere.

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Survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau are gathering to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German death camp amid horror that yet another war has shattered peace in Europe. The site is located in the town of Oświęcim in southern Poland, which during World War II was under the occupation of German forces and became a place of systematic murder of Jews, Poles, Roma and others. In all, some 1.1 million people were killed there, most of them Jews, before it was liberated by Soviet troops on Jan. 27, 1945. Among those who are expected to attend commemorations on Friday is Doug Emhoff, the husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

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Global shares have advanced, boosted by a rally on Wall Street following reports suggesting the economy and corporate profits may be doing better than feared. Markets remained closed in Shanghai for the Lunar New Year holidays. In Tokyo, data showed the core consumer price index was up 4.3%, slightly higher than expected and higher than the Bank of Japan’s target of 2%. Markets have veered up and down recently as worries about a severe recession and weaker profits battle against hopes that the U.S. economy can manage a soft landing and the U.S. Federal Reserve may ease up on interest rates.

Tennis Australia says Novak Djokovic’s father has decided to stay away from the 21-time Grand Slam champion’s semifinal after getting embroiled in a flap involving spectators who brought banned Russian flags to Melbourne Park. Djokovic was scheduled to face Tommy Paul for a berth in the men’s singles final on Friday night. Tournament organizers said they have spoken with players and their teams about not engaging in any activity that causes distress or disruption. After Djokovic’s quarterfinal victory over Russian player Andrey Rublev on Wednesday, Djokovic's father was filmed standing with a group of people waving Russian flags outside Rod Laver Arena. Four people were kicked out of the tournament because of the flags and for threatening security guards that night.