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Column: What to do now that Roe v. Wade is overturned


Supporters of abortion rights gather in Raleigh to protest the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.

On June 24, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 decision that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion. The decision leaves us facing an America where not everyone is afforded the same access to reproductive health care. 

With abortion rights no longer protected at the federal level, legislation is now left to individual states. Many states are beginning to ban or severely restrict abortion access. 

Access to abortion and reproductive care

One of the most important aspects of abortion advocacy is knowing the dangers of anti-abortion legislation, and why abortion rights are absolutely crucial to healthcare. Before the 1800s, abortion was completely legal nationwide. It was not until the mid-to-late 1800s that states began to pass laws making abortion illegal. 

However, the criminalization of abortion did not prevent individuals from receiving the procedure.

Many people who attempted to self-induce abortions or went to untrained practitioners were killed or suffered serious medical complications. 

Procedures coined “back alley abortions" can be fatal, even today. However, legally sanctioned abortion care provides safer options. The Roe v. Wade decision made it possible for individuals to receive abortions from well-trained medical professionals, resulting in fewer pregnancy-related deaths and injuries.

Without Roe, many individuals from states with strict abortion bans will be forced to travel hundreds of miles to receive abortion care, or submit themselves to illegal and potentially dangerous abortions. 

Abortion bans most severely impact people in marginalized groups who already disproportionately struggle to access quality health care. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities and people living on low incomes are often prevented from accessing safe reproductive care.

In the first month following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, 11 states – all in the South and Midwest – either banned abortion completely or implemented a six-week ban. North Carolina is not among these states. 

Abortion currently remains legal and North Carolina. The state will likely become a destination for people from the southeastern region to go for safe, quality abortion and reproductive care. 

Post-Roe political implications

Although abortion currently remains protected in North Carolina, there are still factors threatening access.

The North Carolina Department of Justice recently moved not to lift the injunction in Bryant v. Woodall — an injunction that currently prevents the state from enforcing its 20-week abortion ban. Over the summer, abortion opponents in the state had advocated for the ban's reinstatement.

This makes North Carolina’s abortion access incredibly fragile. The future of abortion rights in the state may be challenged in the upcoming November elections. 

Gov. Roy Cooper is an advocate for abortion rights.

In one statement regarding the recent Supreme Court decision, he said, "For 50 years, women have relied on their constitutional right to make their own medical decisions, but today that right has been tragically ripped away. That means it’s now up to the states to determine whether women get reproductive health care, and in North Carolina they still can."

Other state representatives do not share the same sentiments — and those same politicians are the ones who currently hold the majority in the state legislature.

Senator Thom Tillis said of the June decision, “(Overturning Roe v. Wade) is historic and monumental and affirms my belief that all life is sacred. Each state government and its duly elected representatives will now make the determination about the types of laws they wish to have in place."

Our Republican-dominated majority in the state legislature currently lacks the votes to override a promised veto from Gov. Roy Cooper of any new anti-abortion legislation. 

Abortion will likely be a major campaign topic in the N.C. General Assembly election this year. And if Republican candidates regain their supermajority after the election, they could pass legislation to severely restrict or ban abortion in North Carolina. 

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This makes November’s election crucial for reproductive rights in our state. Who we elect will determine the future of our abortion access in North Carolina.

Access to safe abortion care in North Carolina is hanging by a thread. 

It's important to remain informed on the importance of legal abortions and how abortion bans impact marginalized communities. We must fight for reproductive rights — and vote — when abortion is on the ballot in November.

If you are seeking abortion or reproductive services, see The Daily Tar Heel's resource guide