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OPINION: How to Help Keep Abortion Access Alive in North Carolina

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Clinic escorts and other volunteers showed up to help patients and counter protesters in front of A Preferred Women’s health Center in November 2021. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

“You’re overreacting. Roe v. Wade is settled law. It’s safe. Chief Justice Roberts won’t risk his legacy.”

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected in 2016, I remember being told this by a particularly irritating Bumble date. That was, unsurprisingly, my last date with him — but it wasn’t the last time I heard someone express those same ideas to me. Whether friend or foe, family or stranger, everyone seemed to think Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that ensured federal protections for abortion rights in America, was safe.

But in reality, Roe v. Wade hasn’t been “safe” since the day it was decided. Abortion advocates have long considered Roe the “floor” of abortion access legislation; it secures the bare minimum of legal rights, but does nothing to protect or encourage actual access. There are several states that already consider themselves post-Roe thanks to the blatant lack of access they’ve created through unethical over-legislation and targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. 

Monday evening was a reality check for many Americans. That’s when a draft of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe was leaked and published. This is a draft — it’s not official yet and it doesn’t have any immediate impact on access, but it’s unlikely that the decision will change much in the time before now and whenever it is officially announced. 

This means that as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will become nearly, if not completely banned in at least 26 states

Criminalization of abortion care will have catastrophic impacts. This is not an exaggeration — this is something that has been researched and proven. Dr. Diana Greene Foster recently wrote a wrote a book about the Turnaway Study, a 10-year longitudinal study in which she and her team of researchers compared the experiences of patients who were able to undergo the abortion care they were seeking to patients who were denied that care for any number of reasons. 

Among other things, the Turnaway Study found that patients who were denied an abortion were more likely to be unemployed, keep a household income below the poverty line, remain in contact with violent partners, and struggle with serious health problems. To deny abortion on a larger scale means that these impacts will be seen on a greater community scale: higher unemployment rates, larger economic disparities, and higher maternal mortality rates. As is true with all inequities, these impacts will be felt most strongly by marginalized communities.

In short: While the choice to have an abortion is one that can only be made by pregnant people, the impacts of not having this choice will affect everyone.

It would be easy to allow ourselves to be consumed by our anger and despair, but there is still work to be done. Abortion advocates in several states have been existing in a “post-Roe” mentality for years, navigating existing restrictions with aggressive precision. It’s time to follow their lead.

For folks that are financially capable, donating to abortion funds can help patients overcome financial obstacles in their pursuit of abortion care. For folks that would rather donate time and help, check with local reproductive-rights and reproductive-justice organizations for opportunities to assist. 

For the more politically minded people, reach out to your legislators and let them know that abortion is safe and normal healthcare that everyone should be able to access if they wish. For the people who would rather take their activism online, use that energy to fight stigma and disinformation. 

At this moment, the Supreme Court has not announced or released a final decision. Abortion is still legal in all 50 states in some way, shape, or form. In North Carolina, there is not an existing ban that could be triggered by the overturning of Roe. For the immediate future, abortion will still be legal in this state. 

And if there comes a time when abortion becomes illegal here? Simply being illegal doesn’t stop something from existing or occurring. In the immortal words of Shout Your Abortion’s Amelia Bonow: “Fuck SCOTUS, we’re doing it anyway.”

Calla Hales owns and operates A Preferred Women’s Health Center in east Charlotte.

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