Decades of attacks on reproductive rights and health care access by state legislators have made abortion care difficult to access in North Carolina, with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating existing barriers. A proposed new state law would remove several of those barriers.
The new law, called the Removing Barriers to Gain Access to Abortion Act (“RBG Act”) in honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was introduced on March 1 by members of the North Carolina General Assembly, including Representative Julie von Haefen, Senator Natasha Marcus, and Senator Jay Chaudhuri. HB 188 and SB 167 would eliminate medically unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions that have limited access to reproductive health care in North Carolina for many years.
The Center for Reproductive Rights joined North Carolina lawmakers and advocates at a March 2 town hall forum to discuss the proposed new law.
The RBG Act would repeal the state’s biased counseling requirement, 72-hour delay before a patient may access abortion care, ban on telemedicine for abortion care, and bans prohibiting abortion coverage in state and private health plans. The bill would also allow advanced practice clinicians to provide abortion care within their scope of practice.
At the forum, which was moderated by North Carolina State Representative Deborah Butler and State Senator Natalie Murdock, the RBG Act was discussed in the context of North Carolina’s numerous abortion restrictions—many of which are being challenged by the Center and its partners in court—as well as its overall health policies.
Nimra Chowdhry, State Legislative Counsel at the Center, cited findings from Evaluating Priorities, an online resource by the Center and Ibis Reproductive Health, comparing states’ anti-abortion laws and policies with those supporting the health and well-being of pregnant people, children, and families.
“Repealing harmful abortion restrictions through the RBG Act would represent a step in the right direction for North Carolina,” said Chowdhry. “Despite numerous restrictions on abortion, North Carolina only has three of the seven policies considered in the Evaluating Priorities research supportive of pregnant people. In addition to removing restrictions, more supportive policies must be enacted.”
The findings in Evaluating Priorities show a national trend: The more abortion restrictions in a state, the fewer evidence-based supportive health policies. While policymakers who support abortion restrictions claim that they want to protect the health and safety of women, these findings suggest otherwise.
North Carolina has passed 15 of the 18 abortion restrictions included in the analysis yet enacted only 12 of the 25 supportive health policies. The state has the fourth highest number of abortion restrictions in the country, along with Alabama, Michigan, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.
At the forum, Amber Gavin spoke on behalf of A Woman’s Choice clinics and emphasized the impact that these restrictions have on patients accessing abortion care in the state. She noted that the pandemic has had drastic financial impacts on their patients and that many patients have had to delay their procedures to gather necessary funds. In addition, the ban on telemedicine has prevented the clinic from providing care that maximizes social distancing for patients and staff.
Also joining the forum were Liz Barber of the ACLU of North Carolina, Susanna Birdsong of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Mars Earle of the Carolina Abortion Fund, and Tara Romano of NARAL Pro-Choice NC.
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