Abortion remains legal in N.C.

·5 min read

Jun. 30—LENOIR — The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has returned control of the complex legal, social, health, and financial issues of abortion back to the states.

Access to family planning through public services has not changed in Caldwell County.

"The Caldwell County Health Department has not made any changes to its family planning services; however, we will follow guidance as it comes from NCDHHS (N.C. Department of Health and Human Services) pertaining to the Supreme Court decision," said Anna Martin, public health director, Caldwell County.

Caldwell County Health Department offers family planning services including contraceptives, pregnancy care management such as pregnancy testing, and maternity services.

Last Friday (June 24) Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement regarding the Supreme Court's decision.

"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," said Cooper. "That means it's now up to the states to determine whether women get reproductive health care, and in North Carolina they still can. I will continue to trust women to make their own medical decisions as we fight to keep politicians out of the doctor's exam room."

Although abortion is legal in North Carolina, there are requirements and limitations including, but not limited to, who may legally perform the procedure, the facility in which the procedure is performed, and the number of weeks of the pregnancy.

On Tuesday, June 28, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra addressed the agency's five point plan in response to the Supreme Court's ruling on Roe v. Wade.

According to Becerra, NCDHHS is taking actions to ensure access to abortion.

"Federal law requires our programs to provide medication abortion in limited circumstances, including life of the woman, rape, or incest," said Becerra at the June 28 press conference.

HHS plans to protect privacy and prevent discrimination for patients and providers and ensure that doctors, pharmacists, and clinics are trained and have access to resources to refer and assist patients with family planning, and protecting access to contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives.

According to a June 30 HHS press release, $3 million has been allotted from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to go to providers for training and technical assistance. The Reproductive Health National Training Center (RHNTC) is set to get $2 million and the National Clinical Training Center for Family Planning (NCTCFP) will receive $750,000.

In addition, Becerra addressed supporting clinical decisions to provide appropriate medical care to patients.

There is no Planned Parenthood satellite office in Caldwell County. The clinic is the South Atlantic office in Asheville. Planned Parenthood offers services including emergency and routine contraceptives, pregnancy testing, abortion and abortion referrals.

Molly Rivera, communications director, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said the agency recently added a patient navigator to help patients figure out about the legality of abortions in their home state and, if needed, research and pursue an abortion in a state where it is still legal.

"The abortion landscape has not changed much in North Carolina and as of today, abortion is still legal here," said Rivera, talking about the accessibility of family planning in the state. "However, that is definitely hanging by a thread and that could change depending on what leaders in Raleigh in the General Assembly decide to do and what happens with the election this fall."

According to Rivera, North Carolina will be an important area for women across the South as some states may ban or restrict access abortion.

Rivera said approximately 1 in 4 women in the United States will have an abortion by the time they are 45 and Planned Parenthood hopes to de-stigmatize abortion. She said the decision should be up to the patient in consultation with a doctor, family members and faith leaders, not politics.

"For anyone who has questions, Planned Parenthood is here to help. We have highly trained medical providers who do this everyday and talk people through their options," said Rivera.

Individuals considering alternatives to abortion may reach out to the Pregnancy Care Center. The Pregnancy Care Center offers free family planning services. It is a nonprofit organization and does not receive state or federal funds, but rather operates on contributions and donations.

"We share the positive impact of life, while also respecting a woman's final choice," said Machelle Kirby, program director, Pregnancy Care Center. "It is our hope that we can show them the alternative to the emotional, physical, and spiritual effects that an abortion has on the woman and her family."

Pregnancy Car Center offers service which include pregnancy testing, limited ultrasounds, adoption referrals, post abortion healing, assistance processing applications for public assistance like WIC and Medicaid, resource referrals, assistance with basic care needs such as diapers, wipes, car seats, and cribs, and parent education, including a fatherhood program. The agency provides support for women during the pregnancy and continues through the first two years of the child's life.

Another alternative to abortion is "Safe Surrender."

"North Carolina's Safe Surrender law allows an overwhelmed parent to surrender his or her baby to a responsible adult and walk away. The baby will be adopted. A baby up to 7 days old may be placed with any responsible adult. The baby must be unharmed. Safe surrender is legal and anonymous. Anyone who receives a baby in this way must keep the baby safe and warm, and call 911 or the county social services department immediately. The law is properly called the law to Decriminalize Abandonment of an Infant. The law is meant to prevent these babies from being killed or being left unsafely to die," stated on the Caldwell County Health Department's website.

To learn more about family planning services through the Pregnancy Care Center call 828-757-9555. Walk-in appointments are available, but an appointment is recommended. The Pregnancy Care Center is open on Tuesdays (from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.), Wednesdays (9 a.m. until 5 p.m.) and Thursdays (9 a.m. until 3 p.m.).

To see a list of family planning services offered by the Caldwell County Health Department, visit https://www.caldwellcountync.org/health-department/women-s-health#FP.

To learn more about family planning services through Planned Parenthood contact (828) 252-7928.