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Here’s where WNC abortion access stands as the Supreme Court debates abortion rights

Lilly Knoepp
A march for abortion rights was held in Sylva in October after Texas banned most abortions.

The Supreme Court heard a case Wednesday from Mississippi challenging Roe vs. Wade.  BPR looks at the level of abortion access currently in Western North Carolina. 

Planned Parenthood spokesperson Molly Rivera says there isn’t access to abortion in the majority of North Carolina.

“In North Carolina, 91 percent of counties in our state do not have an abortion provider,” said Rivera.

The only abortion provider in Western North Carolina is a Planned Parenthood location in Asheville.

“And we know that there is a lot more of our state west of Asheville and folks who need healthcare out there,” said Rivera.

Rivera says that if people seeking care can’t make an appointment there, then they have to travel hours away to Charlotte, Winston Salem or to Greenville, South Carolina.

“Depending on what the U.S. Supreme Court decides in this case out of Mississippi if they decide that states are able to restrict or completely ban abortions, we expect South Carolina to be one of the first states to do so,” she said.

Rivera is referring to a February bill banning abortions after 6 weeks in South Carolina which was blocked by federal courts. An appellate court is set to debate the law in January.

Rivera says she will be listening to the Supreme Court oral arguments today closely.

“It really hits hard for people like us who live in the South. Because we know that the South will be one of the places that will be hit hardest if Roe V. Wade is no longer the law of the land,” she said.   

The North Carolina House passed two laws restricting abortions this summer but neither became law.

North Carolina House passed bills restricting abortions based on race and Down Syndrome this summer. It was then vetoed by Governor Roy Cooper.  A “born-alive” bill was passed by the house and is now in a Senate committee.  Governor Roy Cooper vetoed another version of the born-alive bill in 2019.

Rivera says if the Supreme Court makes abortion access a state issue than voting locally will become even more important, as will sharing breaking the current stigma around abortion.

“The most important thing that we can do today is reflect on abortion care and on the stigma that has surrounded abortion for so long that keeps people silent about their experiences,” she said.  

The Supreme Court is expected to decide the case by summer 2022.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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