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New Florida law could make abortions harder to get in North Carolina

By Laura Leslie

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    RALEIGH, North Carolina (WRAL) — A new six-week abortion ban in Florida could make it harder to get an abortion in North Carolina.

When Florida’s new law takes effect on May 1, North Carolina will be the last southeastern state to allow abortion until 12 weeks. That is expected to cause more women to travel to the Tar Heel State to seek the procedure, leading to longer waiting lists at already overloaded providers.

One out of five women seeking an abortion in the U.S. in 2023 had to travel to another state to get the procedure, according to the reproductive rights advocacy group Guttmacher Institute. North Carolina was their second most likely destination, after Illinois — even after North Carolina lawmakers imposed a 12-week ban in July.

Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas have all banned abortion completely, except for very limited exceptions. Georgia and South Carolina have six-week bans. Florida and North Carolina were the only states that allowed later access.

According to Guttmacher, 15,910 women from other states traveled to North Carolina last year to access abortion. That was about 35% of all the abortions performed in the state in 2023.

Waiting lists at North Carolina’s 14 clinics are already about two weeks on average. Alison Kiser with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic says they’ll almost certainly get longer.

North Carolina providers are trying to quickly expand capacity and add appointments. Kiser said Florida accounted for about one in twelve abortions in the U.S. last year — more than twice the number performed in North Carolina.

“Now that Florida is facing this six-week ban — a point in pregnancy which most people don’t even know they are pregnant — we certainly anticipate a huge influx of patients in need of care, looking to North Carolina to provide them with the abortion services they desperately want and need,” Kiser told WRAL News.

“We really want to underscore that time is of the essence for anyone who thinks they may be in need of abortion care to please contact a provider as soon as possible,” Kiser added.

Abortion opponent Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the NC Values Coalition, doesn’t want North Carolina to become even more of a destination state for abortion. She said the state is out of step with the rest of the Southeast and thinks voters here would support a six-week ban, too. “There will be some pressure to move towards protecting the life of unborn babies as early as possible,” Fitzgerald told WRAL News.

A WRAL News Poll released last month asked participants whether they’d support tightening the state’s current law to restrict abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy. Respondents were split: 44% said they oppose the idea, 43% supported it, and 14% said they were undecided. The results were split along ideological lines, with more than half of Republicans supporting added restrictions and more than half of Democrats opposed.

Republican state legislative leaders have said they don’t plan to tighten abortion laws this year, but 2025 is an open question.

“Republicans need to find their voices on this,” Fitzgerald said. “They need to point out the the radical position of Democrats on the issue, because the majority of the American people believe in pretty strict limitations on abortion.”

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the GOP nominee for governor, “has said that as governor he would sign a heartbeat bill with exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger,” said Mike Lonergan, Robinson’s campaign spokesman. The term “heartbeat bill” generally means a six-week abortion ban.

Attorney General Josh Stein, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, said: “As Governor, I’ll continue to defend women’s rights and freedoms here in North Carolina because I trust them to make their own health care decisions without politicians like Mark Robinson telling them what to do.”

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