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No Longer A Destination State? The Initial Impact Of NC’s New Pro-Life Law

baby being held ultrasound

The Guttmacher Institute released data revealing a 31% drop in abortions in North Carolina between June and July of this year, during which time a major new pro-life law took effect. According to this data, there were 4,230 abortions in June and 2,920 in July.

NC Family President John L. Rustin commented on the news to Focus on the Family’s Daily Citizen. “NC Family is extremely grateful for the impact the passage of Senate Bill 20 is having in North Carolina. We know that the lives of precious unborn babies are being saved and vital resources and services are being provided to women and families facing unplanned and crisis pregnancies.”

A bit more context, however, is needed to fully understand these numbers.

Returning To Pre-Dobbs Numbers

North Carolina Abortions in 2021

In 2021 (the most current year with official abortion statistics by the State Center for Health Statistics), there were 32,454 abortions reported in North Carolina, averaging 2,705 abortions a month. Of these abortions, 27,305 were performed on women who were North Carolina residents.

North Carolina Abortions in 2022

The June 2022 Dobbs decision, which overruled Roe v. Wade, also activated a number of “trigger laws” in other states (pro-life laws designed to go into effect if and when Roe was overturned) and enabled those states to enact stricter abortion laws. After the Dobbs decision, North Carolina’s law still allowed abortion up to 20-weeks gestation. Our new pro-life legislation, SB 20—Care for Women, Children, and Families Act, which went into effect in July, decreased the legal limit for most abortions in North Carolina from 20 weeks to 12-weeks gestation, with limited exceptions.

The majority of the American Southeast has enacted substantial pro-life legislation. Specifically:

  • Tennessee has banned almost all abortions;

  • Georgia has banned abortions after 6 weeks gestation;

  • South Carolina has banned abortion after 6 weeks gestation.

The result of this was that North Carolina became an abortion destination state for some women living in states with more restrictive abortion laws. The Society for Family Planning found that North Carolina saw a 37% increase in abortions between April and August of 2022. This prompted legal efforts by abortion proponents to loosen NC abortion restrictions so that abortion clinics could meet an increased demand.

North Carolina Abortions in 2023

Returning to the numbers from Guttmacher’s most recent study, the new pro-life law appears to have succeeded in bringing abortion rates closer to pre-Dobbs levels (2,920 in July of 2023 compared to a monthly average of 2,705 in 2021). It remains unclear, however, if the recent drop in abortion numbers is related to a reduction in abortions on women who live out-of-state, more restrictive pro-life legislation, or a combination of both.

What This Means For North Carolina

While we are praying that these numbers will continue to drop, it is encouraging to see that the pro-life legislation is already saving lives. Based on Guttmacher’s data, in just one month since it was enacted, there were over 1,300 fewer abortions in North Carolina. Our state continues to have more abortion access than any of the surrounding states—excluding Virginia—but this initial data suggests that the increased restrictions make it less desirable as a destination state for women seeking abortions.

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