Pregnancy help stands in the gap to help pregnant women as NC abortion numbers decrease

Pregnancy help stands in the gap to help pregnant women as NC abortion numbers decrease (Sergiu Vălenaș/Unsplash)

According to researchers with the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion organization that studies abortion trends nationally and among states, North Carolina experienced a 31 percent decrease in abortion numbers during the month of July compared with January of this year.

In an article written for The Hill, reporter Nathaniel Weixel wrote, “ ... there were 1,310 fewer abortions performed in the health system that month compared to June ….” The Guttmacher research reflects that figure. “The new data show 2,920 abortions provided in July, which was 1,310 fewer than the 4,230 documented in June,” a press release issued by the organization noted.

New abortion law

In July of this year, the state of North Carolina implemented a new law known as SB 20. This law bans abortion after 12 weeks gestation and requires women to receive counseling 72 hours before an abortion. Some speculate these could be reasons why the number of abortions in North Carolina decreased so significantly.

An article appearing in The Guardian quoted Guttmacher researcher Isaac Maddow-Zirmet.

“It can be a huge obstacle for out-of-state residents, because it means that they either have to take two trips to North Carolina, or they have to find accommodation and lodging for multiple days, in order to get an abortion in North Carolina, which really can be an insurmountable barrier for many people,” Maddow-Zimet said. “’Even with all that said, it was surprising to us, the magnitude of the drop.’”

Interestingly, border states like South Carolina and Virginia did not experience a major increase in abortion numbers, according to National Right to Life News.

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Injunctions placed on aspects of the law

U.S. District Judge Katherine Eagles placed preliminary injunctions on two aspects of the law. The first mandated that abortions conducted after 12 weeks be performed in a hospital. The law allows a later-term abortion in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomaly, and danger to the life of the mother. The second injunction placed by Judge Eagles involves the section of the law requiring an ultrasound for women taking the abortion pill. Such a move is unfathomable when considering the important role an ultrasound plays in medical knowledge. 

Ultrasounds are vital for two important reasons, said Tracie Shellhouse, vice president of Ministry Services at Heartbeat International.

“The opportunity to have an ultrasound and know not only the gestational age as far as how far along she is in that pregnancy, but also to know the location of the pregnancy is vitally important for the health of that mother,” said Shellhouse. “Chemical abortions are generally approved up to 10 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual cycle, and so if a woman has irregular menses, if she doesn't track those things, she may think that she's six weeks along, seven weeks long, and she could possibly be further than that. The ultrasound would help her to know. The other issue is the location of that pregnancy located. She can be pregnant, she can have a positive pregnancy test, but if she has an ectopic pregnancy, she needs to be aware of that.”

According to the Cleveland Clinic, an ectopic pregnancy “is a life-threatening condition,” and therefore, an ultrasound can save a woman’s life.

“That ultrasound is so important to identify if there is an ectopic pregnancy,” Shellhouse said. “If we are concerned about protecting women, then one of the best things we can do is make sure that they have all of the information available to them and as much education available for them to be able to make a wise, informed decision.”

Pregnancy centers help women

The new North Carolina law and the significant decrease in abortion numbers in that state highlight the importance of pregnancy help, she added. 

“We have known for many years that the first 72 hours is very important in reaching women and reaching them with truth and help and services,” she said. “That may actually allow for them to realize that there is support in their community. For women who are considering abortion or trying to understand all of their options, pregnancy help steps in and meets the need. They fill in the gap. They provide education, support services, and resources, and even referrals to other community resources.”

In addition to the decrease in abortions in North Carolina, the entire United States experienced a decline in abortion numbers by seven percent, according to the Guttmacher report. This also reflects the increased need for pregnancy help, and that need is being met, Shellhouse said.

“We’ve had this affiliate growth in the past few years,” she said. “Last year we had a 12 percent increase in the U.S. and the previous year it was seven percent, which was still a big growth. Last year it was over 200 centers at 12% growth, which was amazing, just amazing.”

Some of those new centers cropped up in North Carolina, she added.

“If pregnant women first visit a pregnancy help center, we know statistically that eight out ten are going to choose life, and she finds in her own community, in her own neighborhood, there are people that support her, that care for her, and are willing to step up alongside her,” Shellhouse said. “Humans are created for relationship … when we have support and we have the ability to slow down and think and contemplate what is really best, then we find that we often make decisions that not only are we happy with, but in retrospect and far down the road, we see that it was the best decision we could make.”

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Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News.

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