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Abortion access in North Carolina remains unchanged, despite the Supreme Court ruling, experts and advocates say

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Despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that came down Friday, people who want an abortion in North Carolina can still get one — for now, experts and advocates said.

“While abortion remains legal in North Carolina, our access here is hanging by a thread, and it all depends on the outcome of the November elections,” Jillian Riley, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in North Carolina, said in a statement.

North Carolina has 14 clinics, including clinics in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, that provide abortion care, according to Planning Parenthood South Atlantic. People seeking abortion already face barriers to health care due to systemic discrimination and racism, particularly people in Black, Latino and LGBTQ communities as well as those who live in poor communities, who are young and who live in rural communities, the agency said in a news release.

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court officially overturned the 1973 Roe V. Wade decision. Thirteen states, mostly in the South and Midwest, have laws on the books that would ban abortion when Roe v. Wade is overturned, the Associated Press reported. Another six states have either near-total bans or laws that prohibit abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant, according to the Associated Press.

But for now, North Carolina does not have a law in place banning abortion, though the state does have restrictions. And on Friday, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans, sent a letter to Attorney General Josh Stein, asking Stein to reinstate the state’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks.

“Right now, it doesn’t change anything in North Carolina (in regards) to abortion access,” said Julia Jordan-Zachery, a professor and chair of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at Wake Forest University.

Jordan-Zachery said it is important for people to understand that the Supreme Court’s decision Friday is part of a long fight over reproductive justice and human rights that dates back to at least the 1960s.

“There have been a series of attempts to overturn (Roe v. Wade) at the local, state and national levels,” she said. “This did not just happen. This is very much planned and has been in the political works from 1973 until now.”

The push against Roe v. Wade is part of a larger conservative movement going back to efforts back in the 1960s when Black women and women of color advocated for reproductive justice, Jordan-Zachery said.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, efforts to pass abortion restrictions have increased since 2010. Between Jan. 1, 2011 and July 1, 2019, states have enacted 483 new abortion restrictions, the institute said.

As of June 17, North Carolina has a number of restrictions on abortions. Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act cover abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. A patient also must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage the patient from getting an abortion, and the patient must wait 72 hours before getting an abortion.

North Carolina also requires abortion clinics to meet certain standards related to their building, equipment and staffing.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic said in its news release that Friday’s decision could lead 26 states to quickly ban abortion.

Dr. William Pincus, an ear nose and throat specialist, is the president of North Carolina Right to Life, which is headquartered in Greensboro. He said he was elated at Friday’s decision.

“We’re very pleased that the court recognized that abortion on demand was not part of the Constitution,” he said.

He said the decision should mean that North Carolina reverts back to the state law prior to Roe v. Wade — women would be able to get abortions only before 20 weeks.

The only exception would be for the health of the mother. Pincus said he believes the language regarding the “health of the mother” is too vague. He does not support abortions for people who have been victims of rape or incest.

Pincus said those crimes are violent and unjustified but that it would also be unjustified for a woman who was a victim or rape or incest to have an abortion.

“I personally know two women who were the product of rape,” he said. “They are glad that their mothers did not abort them.”

He also opposes late term abortions. He said that Roe v. Wade allowed people to have abortions all the way up to nine months, but he also acknowledged that late term abortions made up a minority of all surgical abortions.

Pincus said there should be more financial and other support for women so that they can take care of their children. Fathers should be required to support their children, and that the state does not adequately support what he called pregnancy care networks that provide parenting classes and help with housing.

He said women should not be penalized for having an abortion.

“We think the woman is the second victim in abortion,” he said. “The baby dies and the woman is a victim.”

The N.C. Medical Society issued a statement affirming its support of people seeking abortion.

“The North Carolina Medical Society position remains that an abortion is a personal health and medical decision to be made by a qualified doctor and patient,” Chip Baggett, CEO of the medical society, said in a statement.

Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said in a statement Friday that the Supreme Court decision will have “devastating consequences across the South, forcing people to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles for abortion care or potentially be forced to remain pregnant against their will.”

“Our highest priority is making sure our patients can get the care they need,” she said. “Our health center doors remain open, and we aren’t going anywhere.”

336-727-7326

@mhewlettWSJ

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