Durham County official proposes health department offer abortions after Roe decision

·3 min read

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, leaving abortion access up to the states, a Durham official said she wants the county to take matters into its own hands.

County Commissioner Nida Allam said she’d like to see the county provide abortions through the health department, a policy she’s asked the public health director to explore.

“We as a county commission who oversees and funds the health department, well, this is about health care,” Allam told The News & Observer. “This is a public health crisis that we’re entering into.”

Nida Allam
Nida Allam

Abortion is legal in North Carolina, though Republican leaders in the General Assembly want a 20-week ban reinstated in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

In the Triangle, people can get abortions at North Durham Women’s Health and the Planned Parenthood in Chapel Hill, as well as two clinics in Raleigh.

“Since we’re one of the few states in the South that doesn’t have trigger laws that go into effect to ban abortion, we’re going to become a haven state for individuals across the southern region to seek these services,” Allam said during Monday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

A South Carolina law restricting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy can take effect immediately, a federal court ruled late Monday.

“With such an influx we’re expecting, we need more providers,” Allam said.

The health department offers reproductive health and family planning services including IUDs, birth control pills and condoms, but not abortions.

Allam said she plans to bring the matter before the Durham County Board of Health at its next meeting, in August. Allam sits on that board.

Hundreds of demonstrators rally and march in downtown Raleigh Friday, June, 24, 2022 in opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
Hundreds of demonstrators rally and march in downtown Raleigh Friday, June, 24, 2022 in opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

Durham DA promises not to prosecute in abortion cases

Commissioners Chair Brenda Howerton said the county must do everything in its power to protect access to safe, legal abortions.

“Durham, being the progressive county it is, knows how devastating this moment is in our country,” Howerton said at the meeting. “What we do now will have direct consequences for generations of Americans to come.”

Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry has promised to not prosecute anyone for seeking or providing an abortion

“Criminalizing personal health care decisions around abortion creates untenable choices for women — particularly those experiencing sexual assault and domestic violence — and undermines trust and fairness in our criminal legal system,” Deberry tweeted Friday.

Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry has pledged not to prosecute anyone for seeking or providing abortion care.
Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry has pledged not to prosecute anyone for seeking or providing abortion care.

Allam said she’d also like the county to consider giving directly to the Carolina Abortion Fund, a nonprofit that helps pay for abortions and connect people with care.

Allam, who is pregnant and opened up last year about her struggles with fertility, shared her own experience with abortion when the Supreme Court’s draft decision was leaked in early May.

She said she found out a few weeks in that her pregnancy was not viable and could kill her or prevent her from becoming pregnant again.

“For me personally, this hits even closer to home because I had a life-saving abortion last year,” Allam said. “I have constantly felt alone in this conversation, especially in a state like North Carolina where our rights are constantly being targeted in the legislature.”

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