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After North Carolina abortion decision, some seeking health care could travel to Virginia

The exterior of a Planned Parenthood in Richmond.
Crixell Matthews
Virginia abortion rights advocates said they are aware that North Carolinians travel to the commonwealth for care. It’s especially common in Hampton Roads, where northeastern North Carolina is enmeshed with Virginia cities. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

A federal judge reinstated  a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in North Carolina, which could force residents seeking the often time-sensitive care into Virginia.

For residents in northeastern North Carolina, being forced into another state isn’t much of a change.

There are 14 abortion providers in North Carolina and none are in the northeastern part of the state. There is a  pregnancy resource centerin Elizabeth City, which can advise pregnant people, but doesn’t perform abortion procedures.

Virginia abortion rights advocates are aware North Carolinians come to the commonwealth for care. It’s especially common in Hampton Roads, where northeastern North Carolina is enmeshed with Virginia cities. 

According to  North Carolina state data, there were no abortion procedures completed in any eastern North Carolina counties, but 3,000 residents from the area reported receiving one, meaning they traveled for the procedure.

“For folks who have been navigating the deeply restricted landscape in concert with our provider shortage, this [ban] exacerbates our callers’ needs,” the Carolina Abortion Fund wrote in an email to WHRO. The volunteer organization helps people pay for and get abortions.

People seeking a rare late-term abortion are  often in need of medical care, making the distance for northeastern North Caolinians just one more obstacle to getting care, said Alison Kiser with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which includes North Carolina and part of western Virginia.

“One reason that people may commonly need an abortion later in pregnancy after the 20th week is due to receiving new medical information that they could not have had before,” she said.  “For example, learning about a fetal and maternal health diagnosis, a lethal fetal anomaly, something of that nature or even a diagnosis that can present a medical emergency.”

For someone in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, it would take at least an hour to get to a clinic that performs abortions in Virginia Beach. If that person stays in North Carolina, it would take about two and a half hours to a clinic in Raleigh.

The Centers for Disease Control estimated there were 15 late-term abortions in North Carolina and 90 in Virginia during 2020. Virginia and North Carolina did not have laws in place to automatically ban abortion when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

North Carolina has largely been shielded by  Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who said he will “continue to trust women to make their own medical decisions as we fight to keep politicians out of the doctor’s exam room."

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, however, said he plans to support a  15-week abortion ban.

“I'm proud to be a pro-life governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life,” he said, following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Read the original story at the WHRO website.