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In a 6 to 3 decision on June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, reversing the court's 50-year-old decision that guaranteed a woman's right to obtain an abortion. The court's action also set off trigger laws that banned or severely restricted abortions in some states and prompted protests across the country.

U.S. Supreme Court has reversed Roe v. Wade. What that means in the Carolinas

U.S. Supreme Court building
Photo: Carol M. Highsmith
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Public domain
The U.S. Supreme Court building.

UPDATED: 11:49 a.m.

North Carolina is set to become a destination for people seeking abortions, after the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade in a 6-3 decision.

"The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority," the court's conservatives wrote in their majority opinion. "The Court overrules those decisions and returns that authority to the people and their elected representatives."

Abortions are not immediately banned in the Carolinas. Neither North Carolina nor South Carolina has what’s referred to as a “trigger law,” or a law that takes effect right away now that Roe is overturned, which roughly a dozen states have enacted, according to NPR.

At least 26 states, including Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, are poised to severely restrict or totally ban abortion access, according to the abortion-rights-supporting Guttmacher Institute.

“We are going to be providing care to those who need it and those who want it for as long as we can,” said Calla Hales, executive director of A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte, which provides at least 100 abortions per week. “(Those) might be patients from out of state now … but we are, quite frankly, not planning on going anywhere.”

Hales said even though she knew the decision was coming, it is still “painful” and “traumatic.”

In North Carolina, a patient seeking an abortion must receive an ultrasound and consult with a medical professional 72 hours beforehand. Anyone under 18 who wishes to receive the procedure is required to get permission from a parent or guardian.

In South Carolina, an abortion can’t be performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless there are serious health concerns, the pregnancy is placing the patient in danger, or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. The patient must also get an ultrasound and consult with a medical care provider 24 hours ahead of time.

In 2021, South Carolina lawmakers passed and Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law what supporters call a “heartbeat bill.” The measure bans abortions, with a few exceptions, once a heartbeat is detectable, effectively prohibiting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The heartbeat bill has been blocked by courts, however. Now that Roe is overturned, the legal underpinnings of that block could be lifted.

Molly Rivera, communications director for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, told WFAE in May that she worried a change would push patients seeking abortions into South Carolina's neighboring states. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic provides reproductive care services, including abortions, at 14 clinics across North and South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

“We’ve always known that banning or restricting abortion doesn’t mean people don’t get abortions. It just makes it harder for them to do it," Rivera said.

Rivera added: "We know other neighboring states, including Tennessee and West Virginia, will (like South Carolina) similarly move quickly to ban abortions. And that leaves North Carolina as an access point not only for people who live here — but for a large portion of the South."

Others in North Carolina celebrated Friday’s Supreme Court decision and called on lawmakers to restrict abortion access. Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of North Carolina Values Coalition, which opposes abortion rights, in a statement called the Dobbs decision a “major victory for unborn children and their mothers.”

“Our lawmakers now have an opportunity to protect lives and ensure women and families are supported,” Fitzgerald said. “Members of our General Assembly, in particular, must ensure that unborn children and their mothers are protected from the gruesome reality of abortion and that they receive the care and resources they need to flourish.”

Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina are unlikely to pass a more restrictive abortion law that could escape Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. Though Republican lawmakers have a majority, it’s not a supermajority that would enable them to override a veto. That could change depending on the results of the midterm elections in November.

"I will continue to trust women make their own medical decisions as we fight to keep politicians out of the doctor's exam room," Cooper tweeted Friday.

"By the end of the day, we will file motions so that the Fetal Heartbeat Act will go into effect in South Carolina and immediately begin working with members of the General Assembly to determine the best solution for protecting the lives of unborn South Carolinians," Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said in a tweet.

This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.

Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.