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'A very real threat': Future abortion bans possible in NC General Assembly


DTH Photo Illustration. Heartbeat bills outlaw abortion, often before people even know they have become pregnant.

Fourteen states in the country either fully ban abortion or ban it after six weeks of pregnancy. North Carolina is not one of them – for now. 

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and a U.S. District Court reinstated a ban on abortions after 20 weeks in North Carolina, Republican state legislators have not introduced any bills that would further restrict abortion access.

There have not been any heartbeat bills introduced since, either. These heartbeat bills prohibit abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.

However, North Carolinians' access to abortion could become more restricted if anti-abortion legislators are elected to the state's General Assembly in the upcoming midterm elections.

Republican legislators need three seats in the state House of Representatives and two seats in the state Senate to gain a supermajority in each chamber. A supermajority in both chambers would allow them to overrule Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's veto. 

“There's a very real threat that if Republicans gain a supermajority in both houses that they will be able to override the governor's veto on abortion or on legislation that would further restrict — if not ban — abortion, so this is a pretty high-stakes election,” N.C. Rep. Allen Buansi (D-Orange) said.

Jillian Riley, N.C. director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said some anti-abortion legislators in the General Assembly have already said they plan to introduce a ban on abortion this winter.

However, Rebecca Kreitzer, an associate professor of public policy at UNC, said that public opinion is wary of restrictive policies with no exceptions.

Unlike some neighboring states, Kreitzer said the General Assembly did not convene in a special session to introduce more restrictive abortion laws before Election Day in November.

“I think that it's clear that there's not an appetite for the very restrictive abortion policies, like the six-week bans or the complete bans, in North Carolina,” she said. “And I think that Republicans know that that would go a little bit too far for many North Carolinians.”

Kreitzer said public opinion shows most people are supportive of legal abortion, with some exceptions. Polling data suggests that a majority of North Carolinians don't want increased restrictions on abortion.

However, since Republican politicians hold a majority in the N.C. General Assembly, it is unlikely that policies protective of abortion rights will be introduced.

“Until we can elect enough pro-reproductive freedom champions, we will be not able to pass any type of proactive bill that would protect abortion,” Riley said. 

Buansi said the first action he took when he began his term on June 1 was to co-sponsor a bill that would have codified Roe v. Wade and remove some other restrictions on abortion. He said he and many of his Democratic colleagues remain in support of this bill. 

Nearby states like Georgia have introduced heartbeat bills. Some, such as Tennessee, have completely banned abortion. 

Buansi said there has been a strain on state abortion clinics because N.C. is one of two southern states where abortion is still legal.

“That has caused a big jam because there aren't enough clinics to serve everyone that needs that care,” he said. 

If North Carolina bans abortions, Riley said people will be forced to go to Virginia or Washington, D.C., to seek care. 

“My problem with making abortion illegal is that people will still find ways to get abortions whether or not it's legal,” Kreitzer said. 

Since 2020, the majority of abortions were medication abortions, rather than procedural abortions. Kreitzer said that, in 2022, if abortion was to become illegal in North Carolina, people might try to access illegal abortion medication rather than a procedural abortion. 

She said there could be danger associated with illegal abortions since they are unregulated, but there is a relatively low complication rate for both medication and procedural abortions — about the same complication rate as getting a root canal.

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Buansi said he is doing everything he can to get candidates elected who support women's right to choose an abortion.

“I can't impress upon people enough the responsibility that we each have to go to the polls this November,” Buansi said. 


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