Raleigh, N.C. — Only 13 clinics in North Carolina perform abortions, and more women might need their services if the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to ban abortion much earlier in pregnancy.
The high court on Wednesday heard arguments over a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A decision isn’t expected until next summer.
Some of the court’s conservative justices suggested during the hearing scrapping the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. That case, and a subsequent 1992 case affirming a woman’s right to an abortion, allowed states to regulate but not ban abortion up until the point of fetal viability, at roughly 24 weeks.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said Roe v. Wade needs to be overturned. She traveled to Washington, D.C., to rally with abortion opponents.
“It does belong to the states. It belongs to the legislative power to the states, which is really the power of the people,” Fitzgerald said of regulating abortion services.
Should the Supreme Court uphold Mississippi’s law, a wave of new restrictions on abortion access could go into place almost immediately.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are likely to impose near-complete bans on abortion, with many outlawing the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy. North Carolina isn’t on the list, but South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia are. Because of that, the Guttmacher Institute predicts North Carolina could see up to a 4,672 percent increase in women seeking abortions.
“It potentially could increase wait times for patients seeking abortion here in North Carolina,” said Dr. Jonas Swartz, medical director of the Duke Family Planning Clinic. “Certainly, for clinics that provide abortion, we’d have to see how we could increase our capacity to continue to care for our patient population, as well as the patient population from surrounding states.”
North Carolina has its own struggles with abortion access. About 90 of the state’s 100 counties don’t have a clinic that offers the procedure.
“We know that people are traveling hours and hours just to get to their appointment in North Carolina,” said Molly Rivera, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “So, if North Carolina is indeed the closest place to get it, then our 13-some abortion clinics are going to be really overwhelmed with the amount of people who need this time-sensitive, urgent care.”