Facility-based abortions drop 30% in North Carolina after 12-week abortion ban, data show — By: Catholic News Agency

Ultrasound of baby at 12 weeks. / Credit: arhendrix/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Oct 17, 2023 / 11:20 am (CNA).

Facility-based abortions in North Carolina dropped sharply after a restrictive state law went into effect there this past summer, though a pro-life leader is warning not to make too much of those numbers, claiming they could go back up again.

In May the state Legislature enacted a bill largely banning abortions after 12 weeks, with some exceptions in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies, or to protect the life of the mother. The state’s previous limit was 20 weeks. The new limit went into effect July 1. 

The Guttmacher Institute, which studies abortion and supports it, released a finding last week stating that facility-based abortions dropped 31% this July over the previous month. The data suggest the new regulations “seem to be having a severe impact,” the organization said. 

William Pincus, president of North Carolina Right to Life, told CNA he’s not sure those numbers will hold up over time. 

“I’m encouraged that the numbers dropped,” he said. “It worries me a little bit because it’s only one month.”

“It would be awesome if that were the case,” he continued. “But I’m skeptical that it’s going to be that way for the rest of the year or into the future.”

“Once we get the numbers for August, September, October, November, December, my suspicion is that the numbers are probably going to go back up,” he said.

The vast majority of abortions in the United States take place during the first trimester, or the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In 2020, for instance, about 93% of all abortions were performed fewer than 13 weeks into gestation, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks abortions in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

Pincus said the new abortion law in North Carolina in theory should apply only to a portion of the other 7% of abortions that occur after 12 weeks. He noted that some women in the state will probably have abortions sooner than they would have otherwise because of the new law.

The new North Carolina statute requires that a physician performing an abortion meet in person with the woman at least 72 hours before it occurs to inform her orally of certain details about it, including what the law calls “the probable gestational age of the unborn child as determined by both patient history and by ultrasound results.”

The state’s two-visit requirement “may be having an even wider impact” than the 12-week limit, the Guttmacher Institute said last week.

“The in-person counseling requirement is a medically unnecessary barrier that forces patients to make a separate trip to a health care facility at least 72 hours before their abortion,” Guttmacher claimed. 

The institute argued that the two-trip requirement “serves no legitimate medical purpose. Rather, it is a continuation of a decadeslong anti-abortion strategy to impose onerous requirements that make it harder for patients to obtain care and for providers to offer it, even where abortion is legal.” 

The organization’s analysis also provides several caveats about the July abortion figures in North Carolina — including that seasonal fluctuations could account for the decline and that more women may be turning to self-administered chemical abortions by pills instead of going to an abortion facility to get an abortion procedure. 

The Guttmacher Institute says the figures for its Monthly Abortion Provision Study come from “a statistical model” that combines “data of samples from abortion providers” and “historical data on the caseload of every provider in the United States.” 

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who supports legal abortion, vetoed the abortion bill. But Republicans in the state Senate and state House of Representatives enacted the bill by overriding the veto, barely managing the three-fifths majority in each chamber needed to do so. 

Abortion opponents like Pincus would have preferred a so-called heartbeat bill, banning abortion after six weeks. 

“But we did not have enough votes among the Republicans to go from 20 weeks to six weeks,” Pincus said. “And of course we do not have a pro-life governor.” 

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