The number of abortions performed in North Carolina has dropped by more than a quarter since 2010 – one of the steepest declines in the nation – and new rules including a 72-hour waiting period could extend the trend.
In South Carolina, the number of abortions performed has dropped by 11.7 percent over the same time period, though advocates on the two sides of the issue offer differing explanations about why that has happened.
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 during 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.
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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.
Just last week, the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a bill 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.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory plans to sign the bill, 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.
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.
South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control reports there were 6,464 abortions performed in South Carolina in 2010, compared to 5,708 abortions performed in 2014.
Holly Gatling of South Carolina Citizens for Life said she believes the work her organization has done in the past several years to press state lawmakers to approve several measures in 2010 and 2012 are the reason for a reduction.
“Women are making other choices,” Gatling said. “We see this as part of a decline that goes back since 1990.”
Alyssa Miller, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which runs a clinic in Columbia that provides abortions, said education to prevent teen pregnancies might be making a dent in the numbers.
“We are seeing excellent work from organizations who are helping prevent teen pregnancy and also helping teens and women obtain long-acting reversible contraception,” Miller said. But she also thinks part of the reason for a decrease “are that states like South Carolina are trying to make it more difficult for women to access proper health care.”
Abortions in South Carolina are provided at clinics in Charleston, Greenville and Columbia, the same number of clinics that were open in 2010. Abortions beyond 13 weeks are performed in hospitals.
This year, abortion foes have focused on a bill that bans the procedure past 19 weeks.
Debate over the bill brought the state Senate to a standstill last month, as Republican Sen. Lee Bright – one of the Legislature’s most strident abortion foes – threatened to block its because he opposes exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
The Senate added exceptions for those cases, as well as for severe fetal anomalies, sending the amended bill back to the House. That chamber’s version provides exceptions only to save the mother’s life or prevent severe injuries to her.
A committee of House members and senators was appointed Thursday to try to reach a compromise in a special session later this month.