Abortions in North Carolina fell by more than 30% after the state enacted new abortion restrictions on 1 July, including a 12-week abortion ban, new data released on Wednesday by the Guttmacher Institute shows.
North Carolina abortion clinics performed more than 4,200 abortions in June, but just 2,920 abortions in July. Nearby states did not see a comparable surge in abortions, suggesting that patients denied abortions in North Carolina had to self-manage their own – or simply went without.
“Having to turn away patients over and over again is truly just soul-crushing,” said Calla Hales, who runs A Preferred Women’s Health Center, a network of clinics with two locations in North Carolina and two in Georgia, which has a six-week abortion ban.
“We’re having to try our best to help patients, but they’re going through incredible financial and logistical difficulties to get here. And then there’s the patients who just can’t make it, or have to be turned away because they’re just too far, or have some other condition that isn’t compatible with doing a non-hospital abortion. It weighs a person down.”
The 12-week ban also included a new requirement that abortion patients show up for an in-person consultation at an abortion clinic at least 72 hours before their abortion. That requirement was devastating both to patients and providers, Hales said. It confused patients and left providers scrambling to schedule patients twice at an already-crowded clinic.
Line chart of the monthly change in North Carolina abortions compared the US overall
Isaac Maddow-Zimet, who led the research effort at Guttmacher, said it’s not clear whether the 12-week ban or the 72-hour waiting period contributed more to the drop in abortions.
“It can be a huge obstacle for out-of-state residents, because it means that they either have to take two trips to North Carolina, or they have to find accommodation and lodging for multiple days, in order to get an abortion in North Carolina, which really can be an insurmountable barrier for many people,” Maddow-Zimet said. “Even with all that said, it was surprising to us, the magnitude of the drop.”
After the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade last year, North Carolina became a haven for abortion seekers fleeing the sweeping abortion bans that blanketed much of the south. In the nine months following Roe’s demise, North Carolina clinics performed roughly 1,000 more abortions per month than they had before Roe fell – making North Carolina a state that saw one of the biggest surges in the country, according to research from the Society of Family Planning.
Before Roe fell, less than 10% of abortions, both nationally and in North Carolina, were performed past the first trimester of pregnancy. But people who work at abortion clinics and funds across the country say that they are increasingly seeing more patients who are later on in their pregnancies. Because it’s now so difficult to get abortions, more women might be forced to wait longer before they can end their pregnancies.
A 12-week ban, then, might be even more devastating for abortion patients.
“It’s like the state cut us off at the knees,” Hales said.