RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – While politicians debate abortion rights, North Carolina doctors are weighing the health implications of the issue.
“Absolutely this will have an impact for North Carolinians,” said Dr. Beverly Gray, founder of Duke Reproductive Health Equity.
She says states are already seeing a spill-over effect.
The spill-over effect
“Bans in Texas and Oklahoma influence where those patients can get care so they’re going to go to surrounding states,” said Gray.
Thirteen states have trigger laws that would automatically ban abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The Institute tracks abortion laws nationally and is “committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights”.
North Carolina is not among them and could see an influx of people from these states lengthening wait times here, Gray said.
“If you have delays in care due to access that is going to shift for those who are seeking care in their first trimester when abortion is safe, when its most common,” Gray said.
Increased staffing needs
CDC data shows more than 600,000 abortions are performed every year. Dr. Richard Shannon, chief quality officer at Duke Health said an abortion ban could translate into 600,000 more babies born a year.
“That would be in the absolute extent in which there were no pregnancies terminated based upon the most recent data,” Shannon said.
He says our medical field doesn’t have the staff to handle much more.
“It’s estimated we need 8,000 more obstetricians today. That’s before we consider the impact of bringing 600,000 to 800,000 additional live births forward,” Shannon said.
Impact on maternal mortality rates
“You’re talking about increasing all the stresses on the existing system — a system that today yields the highest maternal mortality rate in the civilized world — stressing that system further with as much as 20 to 25 percent additional births,” said Shannon.
A report from the Commonwealth Fund, the United States has the worst maternal mortality rate among developed countries.
The report concluded the U.S. has an undersupply of maternity care providers and lacks comprehensive postpartum support.
CDC shows the country’s maternal mortality rate for 2020 was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. It was up from 2019’s rate of 20.1 per 100,000 live births. The rates were significantly higher for Hispanic and Black mothers compared to their white counterparts, CDC data showed.
“This falls disproportionately on women of color and in this particular case, rural women. Access to care for rural women right now is very significantly limited. Fifty percent of women that live in rural areas are at least a 30-minute distance to the closest prenatal care,” Shannon said.