Planned Parenthood Supporters Act!

Member Planned Parenthood South Atlantic kicked off its first Action Forum at UNC Greensboro recently. Look for these action forums, designed to engage PP supporters in the work for reproductive justice, to continue taking place across the state this winter. The below article was written by NCWU VP and PPSAT field organizer Heather Williams.

On the evening of Friday, November 6th, reproductive health advocates from across the state came together in Greensboro, NC for one of the first ever Planned Parenthood Action Forums, presented by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic (PPSAT).  The goal of the Action Forum was to generate feedback from the patients and supporters of Planned Parenthood about the work that the organization will take on in the future around protecting access to reproductive and sexual health care.   Participants included supporters from Asheville and Boone, Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville, and of course, Greensboro.

During the forum, participants were asked which policies and issues concerned them most in relation to three main areas of focus:  access to health care, abortion access, and sex education.  NC Women United’s own Tara Romano helped facilitate  a discussion related to policy and abortion access, focusing on the recent attacks on abortion by state lawmakers.  NCWU board members Emma Akpan and Heather Williams also facilitated discussions around what pro-active comprehensive sex education should look like, in addition to the ways we can address health access in our communities.
The Action Forum’s purpose was to highlight that policy comes from the lived experiences of those in the community, and the profound impact policy has on the daily lives of our people.  Participants shared their own stories pertaining to reproductive rights and policy, and engaged in dynamic conversations that will direct the work of Planned Parenthood in the near future. Senior Director of Field Operations for PPSAT, Emily Callen, noted that the Action Forum is helpful to articulate the priorities that we see among our base to the rest of our organization, and in doing so we can better serve our communities through our advocacy work.

In the near future, Planned Parenthood will take these Action Forums back to the communities our organizers work within and will host local forums in cities like Raleigh, Charlotte, and Fayetteville, among others.  We’ll be coming to a city near you and want to hear from you, so be sure to take part!
NCWU President Tara Romano presenting a timeline on abortion access in NC.

NCWU President Tara Romano presenting a timeline on abortion access in NC.

President Tara Romano led the breakout session on abortion access in North Carolina, presenting a timeline of that access through the years. Looking at that timeline, from before the establishment of legal abortion in the U.S. until now, is a concrete view of the slow – although happening much more quickly lately – erosion of abortion access. And without access, there really are no rights, not for most women. We’ve included highlights from that timeline in this post, as well as some facts about abortion access in NC. 

1967 – 6 years prior to the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion across the country, North Carolina allows abortion in cases of incest, rape, fetal abnormality and to preserve the health/life of the pregnant woman
1978 – one year after the Hyde Amendment is adopted at the federal level, the North Carolina State Abortion Fund is established to provide funding for women unable to afford the procedure, and who want to access it in the case of rape, incest and to preserve the life of the pregnant woman
Throughout the 1990’s – increased restrictions were put on this funding, making it very difficult for women to access it. In 2011, the fund was eliminated completely.
1995 – NC General Assembly (NCGA)requires parental consent for minors who need to obtain an abortion
2011 (latest year the Guttmacher Institute has data) – in NC:
  • more than 175,000 NC women became pregnant (out of more than 1.9 million women of reproductive age)
    • 68% of these pregnancies resulted in live births
    • 16% of these pregnancies resulted in induced abortions (~ 28,600)
      • 14.6 abortions/1000 women of reproductive age (16.9/1000 women is national rate)
      • this number may reflect non-NC residents who had abortions in NC, and also missed NC women who had their abortion in another state
      • abortions in NC represent 2.7% of US abortions

2011 – NC General Assembly votes to specifically defund Planned Parenthood (PP). A federal judge blocked this provision on the grounds the NCGA cannot single out specific agencies for this type of legislation.

2011 – NCGA introduces “Women’s Right to Know” bill, which requires a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion; forced and biased “counseling” using a script written by politicians; a forced ultrasound prior to the abortion; and a script physicians are required to read to the patient during the ultrasound.  If providers don’t follow these procedures exactly, they can be sued  by the patient or person who impregnated the patient.

2012 – NCGA successfully defunds “private providers” such as Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that no state funds are used for abortions.  This defunding just limits the other health services women have been able to access at their local PPs.

2013 – in July, the NC General Assembly stripped a motorcycle safety bill after the “crossover” deadline in the spring to insert new language designed to greatly restrict access to abortion in NC. This became known as the “Motorcycle Vagina” bill (SB353). Among its provisions, the bill:

  • prohibits women from obtaining abortion coverage through the ACA federal health exchange in NC, even if they are purchasing the policy with only their own money (i.e., no subsidies)
    • only coverage is allowable in cases of rape, incest and when the pregnant women’s life is endangered
  • sets new, overly burdensome abortion clinic regulations, that have nothing to do with improving the safety of the procedure or protecting the health of the patients. These are known as TRAP laws.
  • strips comprehensive health care – that includes coverage for abortions – from city and county employees; taking away a benefit employees previously had
    • only coverage is allowable in cases of rape, incest and when the pregnant women’s life is endangered
  • allows any health care clinic employee to refuse to participate in abortion services – including receptionists and janitorial staff in addition to providers – without exception or referral requirement
  • threatens health care providers with severe fines of up to $100,000 for performing an abortion where a third-party claims that sex-selection was a “significant factor” in a woman’s decision. This is basically racial profiling of Asian women seeking reproductive healthcare in NC.

2013 – the NCGA allocates $250,000 in taxpayer money to fund Crisis Pregnancy Centers – clinics that are explicitly anti-abortion and target women seeking abortions, and that regularly use deceptive tactics and misinformation to keep women uninformed of all the options available to them

2014 – federal judge strikes down the forced ultrasound that was part of the 2011 “Women’s Right to Know” law

2015 – 90% of North Carolina’s 100 counties have no abortion provider.

  • 53% of NC women live in these counties

2015 – HB465 – “Women and Children’s Protection Act

  • establishes 72 hour waiting period to obtain an abortion
  • creates new provider reporting requirements to NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on abortions performed; this may violate patient confidentiality and is the only reproductive health information that has to be reported to NC DHHS
  • this bill also included provisions to strengthen some domestic and sexual violence (DV/SV) statutes, a political move that ignores the fact that victims of DV/SV also seek abortions, and that pregnancies do result from abusive relationships (reproductive coercion is a type of abuse).

2015 – SB297 attempted to criminalize drug use in pregnant women, but this harmful bill did not make it out of the legislative session. With the continued push to not just make abortion inaccessible for most women, but to also criminalize the actions of pregnant women, we anticipate this will not be the last we see of bills like this.

#StandWithPP #ReproductiveJustice #TrustWomen