The number of abortions performed in North Carolina has dropped by more than a quarter in the past five years – one of the steepest declines in the nation – and new rules including a 72-hour waiting period could extend the trend.
A national survey by The Associated Press found that the annual number of abortions has fallen significantly in most states, both conservative and liberal-leaning, since 2010.
Abortions in North Carolina have declined by 26 percent in that period. Only Hawaii had a larger percentage decline in the survey, which included all but the handful of states that don’t keep comprehensive abortion statistics.
The survey comes as the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill last week that would make the state one of a few that require women to talk to a doctor or other qualified professional 72 hours before having an abortion, unless there’s a medical emergency.
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Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill Friday, which also requires doctors to provide more data to state regulators about certain second-trimester abortions and makes clear that clinics and ambulatory surgical centers performing abortions must be inspected annually.
Bill supporters have said that increasing the state’s waiting period from the current 24 hours will give pregnant women more time to collect information about a difficult decision. The bill’s House sponsors also said they hope the measure would lead to fewer abortions.
Three other states have 72-hour waiting periods: Missouri, South Dakota and Utah. Oklahoma’s waiting period of that length goes into effect in November.
In 2010 – the year before Republicans took over the legislature – nearly 31,000 abortions were performed in North Carolina, according to the state health department. The number fell to slightly fewer than 23,000 in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
After Republicans gained a majority in both chambers in November 2010 elections, they passed several abortion-related bills in including one that put the current 24-hour waiting period for abortions in place. Republican leaders have credited the laws with the drop in abortions.
During debate over the recently passed abortion measure, state Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors, said abortion is the only medical procedure she knows of that’s “considered a success when there’s death. That’s not health care.”
Democratic Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. said the bill was another effort by Republicans to limit abortions – and ultimately curtail women’s rights.
“I guess if this body could overturn Roe v. Wade, they would,” he said, referring to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case that established the constitutional right to abortion. “But they’re unable to do so. So the next thing to do is to put one hurdle after another after another to make certain that women don’t have a right to exercise decisions.”
Opponents of the bill had urged McCrory to stand by his answer in a 2012 gubernatorial debate when he was asked what further abortion restrictions he would sign if elected. McCrory responded: “None.”
In announcing his plans to sign the bill, McCrory argued that it won’t restrict access.