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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.

National & World AP Stories

Asian 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%. On Thursday, Wall Street stocks climbed to their highest level in nearly eight weeks after the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual pace in the last quarter, ending 2022 with momentum despite higher interest rates and widespread fears of a looming recession.

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.

Just before Nazi Germany invaded Hungary in March 1944, Jewish youth leaders in the eastern European country jumped into action: They formed an underground network that would save tens of thousands of fellow Jews from the gas chambers. This chapter of the Holocaust heroism is scarcely remembered in Israel. Nor is it part of the official curriculum in schools. But the few remaining members of Hungary’s Jewish underground want their story told and are dismayed at the prospect of being forgotten. Now in their 90s, they and their families are working to keep the memories of their mission alive. The efforts come as the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday.

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Hong Kong will ban CBD starting Wednesday, labeling it a “dangerous drug.” Cannabidiol, derived from the cannabis plant, was previously legal in Hong Kong, where bars and shops sold products containing it. But last year, Hong Kong authorities decided to prohibit its use. Customs authorities announced Friday that the ban would go into effect starting Feb. 1. CBD is one of many chemicals found in cannabis, a plant known more commonly as marijuana. Unlike its cousin THC, CBD doesn’t get users high. Supporters say CBD can treat a range of ailments. Others, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, say there’s not enough evidence to confirm its safety as a supplement.