RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A months-old number is taking on new life.
It has to do with how many more abortions have taken place in North Carolina since the Supreme Court’s landmark reversal of Roe v. Wade last summer.
The figure picked up momentum earlier this week when it was included in a statewide anti-abortion group’s response to Gov. Roy Cooper’s State of the State address.
Where did it come from? And because the most recent numbers were collected half a year ago, is it still relevant — or is it already out of date?
THE CLAIM: Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a statement reacting to the governor’s address that “North Carolina has seen a 37 percent increase in abortion since the Dobb’s (sic) decision” and that the “only business that is going to hurt from ‘cultural legislation,’ as the Governor calls it, is the abortion industry, of which Governor Cooper is a beneficiary in campaign contributions.”
THE FACTS: That number comes from a study by #WeCount, a national reporting project that is tracking the shifts in abortion access by state after the Supreme Court’s decision last June that removed the constitutional protection for abortion. The increase in North Carolina is widely attributed to people coming in from neighboring states where the procedure was banned.
The first set of findings compared the first two months after that decision — July and August 2022 — to the two months that preceded it and found the number of abortions in North Carolina did increase by 37 percent during that time.
Those findings, published in late October, returned to the headlines last weekend when The New York Times cited that statistic in a story titled “How the Fall of Roe Turned North Carolina Into an Abortion Destination.”
Tara Sweeney, a spokeswoman for #WeCount, said those numbers are correct for that time period and said updated statistics are due to be released in the coming weeks.
The numbers they cited are six months old. Are they still relevant?
“They don’t necessarily give an accurate picture of what’s happening on the ground today,” said Dr. Jonas Swartz, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Duke Health and an assistant professor at the Duke University School of Medicine.
The coalition’s statement also misquotes Cooper, who did not say the phrase “cultural legislation” during his address earlier this week but did twice bring up “culture wars,” saying avoiding them during his six years in office “has also been good for business” and asked lawmakers to “keep us off the front lines.”
The statement goes on to call Cooper a “beneficiary” in campaign contributions.
Coalition spokeswoman Laura Macklem said Fitzgerald was referring to Planned Parenthood and the various political action committees linked to it.
The organization’s independent expenditure PAC in the state, Planned Parenthood Action PAC North Carolina, is branded as Planned Parenthood Votes! North Carolina PAC.
That organization did make two donations of $5,400 — the maximum allowable at the time — to Cooper’s most recent campaign for governor.
One came on Dec. 20, 2019 before the primary on March 3, 2020, and the other on March 25, 2020 before the November general election, according to TransparencyUSA.org, a website that tracked state-level campaign contributions taking place since 2017.