In the wake of the Supreme Court leak, NC advocates mull the future of abortion in the state
As abortion rights advocates across the country brooded over a United States Supreme Court draft opinion leaked which would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion, North Carolina Democrats emphasized the importance of the state government’s role in maintaining the legality of abortion.
At a press conference at the North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday, North Carolina Democrats and abortion rights advocates stressed that the draft advisory was not yet in effect.
Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham), said the future of abortion “will begin in the United States.”
“What we now know unfortunately is that we cannot depend on the Supreme Court of the United States,” Murdock said. “It’s up to us and the state legislatures to continue to hold the line that we will fight to maintain full freedom and autonomy over our bodies so that we can determine our own future and destiny.”
The leaked draft opinion, written by Judge Samuel Alito, would overturn Roe v. Wade, which gave pregnant women the option to choose to have an abortion without undue government restriction.
If the bill becomes the Supreme Court ruling, it would defer decisions on abortion access to state governments, instead of being a federally recognized right.
Meanwhile, North Carolina has laws on the books that limit the ability to have an abortion. Some of these laws predate 1973, when Roe took effect, and some were written after in an attempt to reduce Roe’s benefits.
But what would happen in North Carolina is far from clear.
Crossing state lines
Last year, Texas and Oklahoma passed restrictive abortion laws that only allow the procedure up to six weeks after conception. In the wake of the implementation, abortion providers in other states said they saw patients arriving from Texas.
“We’ve helped patients come from as far away as the Rio Grande Valley, to our clinic in Minnesota or our clinic in Virginia or Maryland,” said Sonja Miller, head of the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, based in Texas. gathering of health journalists in Austin, Texas, last weekend.
Whole Woman’s Health, which also has clinics in other states, recently opened a clinic south of Minneapolis.
“[We] began serving our first patients with in-clinic surgeries in late February,” Miller said.
Miller referred to surgical abortions, which tend to take place after around 12 weeks of pregnancy and require physical intervention performed by a healthcare provider. In recent years, people seeking to terminate a pregnancy have also had the option of a “medical” abortion, which uses a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol pills to terminate a pregnancy. Medical abortions can be self-administered by the person requesting an abortion and can only be used up to approximately 12 weeks after conception.
Miller said his organization deliberately located the Minnesota facility near the airport.
“We … opened it because we wanted a safe place, a state of refuge,” she said. “Minnesota is such a state where we could take our patients.”
She said about 30% of the patients currently seen at that clinic are from outside of Minnesota, many of them from Texas.
In 2020 in North Carolina (the latest year for state statistics), the state Department of Health and Human Services recorded 25,058 abortions, with 37.4% of procedures performed surgically, and 59.1% of abortions were performed using the combination of pills. (DHHS data indicates that 3.5% of procedures are “unknown.”)
Statistics show that of all the procedures performed in North Carolina that year, nearly 99% of the procedures were performed on residents of the state.
That could change, said Meghan Boone, a faculty member at Wake Forest University School of Law, who specializes in constitutional law and reproductive rights issues. She said North Carolina could see an influx of people seeking abortion care in the coming months if the Supreme Court overturns Roe later this summer.
North Carolina is surrounded by states that have so-called “trigger laws” that go into effect to restrict or ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, she explained. And it’s likely that South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia will all ban abortion as soon as the Supreme Court’s decision is released.
North Carolina’s books laws, however, are less clear.
“There’s a bit of a kind of spongy language in 14-44Boone said, referring to the North Carolina law written in 1881 that made abortion illegal.
This law has been modified in modern times, first by a law of 1967 which legalized abortion to preserve the life of the mother, in the case of a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or if “the child would be born with serious physical or mental disorders”. fault.”
Eventually, state law was changed in 1973 to comply with Roe v. Wade which had been returned earlier that year, but North Carolina law banned procedures taking place after the 20th week of pregnancy. This ban after 20 weeks was overturned by a federal judge in the Bryant vs. Woodall case, which was decided in 2021.
All of those layers of laws and court rulings create a murky picture in Roe’s absence, Boone said.
“You have part of the criminal code that says ‘you can’t do that’, but other parts of the criminal code say ‘you can do that in these kinds of circumstances, situations,'” she said. . “It’s just not clear that you would be able to criminally prosecute someone under those earlier laws in the face of more modern laws that suggest legal abortions are legal.”
Law enforcement in a post-Roe world
It’s also unclear what would have to happen for North Carolina’s old laws to go into effect.
“You could have a prosecutor who decided to press charges and then I think faced with that you would have a criminal defendant who would argue that this law was no longer valid in light of subsequent post-Roe changes in criminal .code, which legalized their particular situation,” Boone said.
There is also the possibility that the legislature could act, she said. But Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has vetoed several abortion bills passed by the Republican-dominated legislature since his election in 2016.
Cooper doubled down on his support for abortion in a tweet Monday night as the Supreme Court leak began to go viral on social media.
Now more than ever, governors and state legislatures must stand up for women’s health care. We know the stakes and must stand firm to protect women’s choice and access to medical care. – CR
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) May 3, 2022
There may be more legislation to reinstate the 20-week limitation law, but with a Democratic governor and too few Republicans in the legislature to override a governor’s veto that seems unlikely.
This reality led Democrats at the press conference in Raleigh to encourage people to vote, even as Republicans. aired talking points how to encourage voters to adopt their point of view.
Meanwhile, defenders have warned that the leaked draft is just that – a draft. Abortions remain legal in North Carolina, and nothing has changed yet, said Jillian Riley of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
“It’s not final,” Riley said. “Abortion is still safe, legal, and constitutionally protected in the state of North Carolina.”
Still, she said abortion providers are bracing for the actual ruling later this year. She said the leaked draft gives vendors “a bit more time to be able to prepare.”
This article first appeared on North Carolina Health News and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.