RALEIGH, N.C. (THE HILL) — Abortions in North Carolina dropped 31 percent in a single month after the state’s 12-week abortion ban took effect, according to a new analysis, the largest of any state.
After the law took effect on July 1, there were 1,310 fewer abortions performed in the health system that month compared to June, the analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights research group, showed.
Abortions decreased seven percent nationwide, the analysis found.
In the first six months of 2023, North Carolina saw a 55 percent increase in abortions compared to a similar period in 2020, as it was one of the few states in the southeast without significant abortion restrictions.
North Carolina’s law passed in May after state Republicans were able to override a veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
A previous Guttmacher analysis, published last month, showed that abortions increased in states that were either close to or bordering those with abortion bans or strict limitations.
But as abortions dropped significantly in North Carolina in July, there wasn’t a corresponding increase in South Carolina, Virginia, the District of Columbia or Maryland.
Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a data scientist and lead author on the report, said the decrease likely reflects fewer people traveling to North Carolina from out of state because of additional restrictions on top of the gestational time limit.
“That kind of sharp drop is not something that we saw in any other state,” Maddow-Zimet said.
The law requires patients to have an in-person counseling visit at least 72 hours before the abortion procedure or appointment to get medication.
For people traveling, the 72-hour rule means either making two trips to North Carolina, or it means having additional lodging costs to stay for multiple days. They would likely need to take time off work, and some might need to find childcare.
“And that really might be one obstacle too many for people in order to be able to actually access care. And then coupled with that, the fact we’re not seeing an increase in neighboring states makes us concerned about whether people are able to access care,” Maddow-Zimet said.
More than a dozen states have either banned or severely restricted abortions in the wake of the Dobbs decision last year that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Guttmacher’s monthly data analysis doesn’t yet take into account the impact of South Carolina’s six-week ban, as well as Indiana’s near-total ban, both of which took effect in August.
Maddow-Zimet said he anticipates the South Carolina ban will likely have a significant impact on abortion access across the southeast, especially in conjunction with North Carolina’s law.
Jonas Swartz, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Duke Health in Durham, said the law puts a strain on providers as well, who now have to find appointments for patients who need twice as many visits.
“All the clinics were scrambling to figure out, how do you fit these patients here for a medically unnecessary counseling visit into the number of clinic slots that you already have? Or how do we expand our clinic slots to accommodate those counseling visits?” Swartz said.
“Any talk about how people are still able to access care up to 12 weeks, needs to come with a major asterisk that [the law] has made care much more difficult to access even before 12 weeks,” he added.