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Health

Here’s who gets abortions in North and South Carolina, according to state data

A waiting room.
Unsplash

Providers in North and South Carolina performed a combined total of 35,472 abortions in 2020, according to numbers from the states’ health departments.

Abortion is currently legal in the Carolinas but with some restrictions. In North Carolina, a patient seeking an abortion must receive an ultrasound and consult with a medical professional 72 hours beforehand. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, as suggested by a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion, a dormant state law from 1973 could ban abortions after 20 weeks, except in certain medical emergencies.

In South Carolina, abortions are banned after 20 weeks unless there are serious health concerns or the pregnant person's life is in danger. The patient also has to get an ultrasound and consult with a provider 24 hours ahead of time. If Roe is overturned, a recently passed state law that's been tied up in the courts could take effect, effectively making abortions illegal after six weeks.

North Carolina providers in 2020 performed more than five times the number of abortions as those in South Carolina. North Carolina reported 30,004 abortions were performed, including out-of-state residents. South Carolina reported 5,468 abortions. The number of North Carolina residents who had abortions in 2020, 25,058, includes people who traveled to other states.

Roughly half of North Carolina residents who had an abortion, or 12,345, were African American. Twenty-eight percent, or 6,999, were white and 13%, or 3,287, were Hispanic, according to the state's Department of Health and Human Services. These numbers mirror nationwide abortion trends, according to Rebecca Kreitzer, associate professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who studies abortion policy.

“We know that women of means, especially white women, are more likely to have access to high-quality birth control,” Kreitzer said. “They experience unintended pregnancies at a lower rate and we’ve seen that the abortion rate for people in those groups have gone down in recent years.”

She added: “In contrast, when you look at Hispanic and Black peoples’ unintended pregnancy rates and abortion rates, they’re substantially higher compared to their white counterparts and it’s actually increasing in recent years.”

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, state law requires that all abortions performed in the state be reported to the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control but race and ethnicity information is not required.

In Mecklenburg County, 11,098 abortions were performed in 2020 — the most of any county in North Carolina — with at least half of the patients traveling from elsewhere for the procedure. The second-highest number of performed abortions, 6,752, was in Wake County.

Roughly 77% of abortion patients in South Carolina in 2020 were between the ages of 20 and 34, according to DHEC data. Fourteen people who got abortions were under 15, while 58 were 15-16 and 437 were 17-19.

The statistics are similar in North Carolina. Of the North Carolina residents who had abortions in 2020, roughly three-quarters were between 20 and 34 years old. Forty-four patients were between the ages of 10 and 14 and 1,855 were between the ages of 15 and 19.

DHEC also tracks the type of abortions performed in South Carolina, breaking them into categories like “dilation and curettage” and “electrical vacuum aspiration.” The most common kind of abortion performed in 2020, according to these numbers, is a “medication abortion,” which accounted for about 67% of procedures. Medication abortion, also known as a “medical abortion” or “abortion pill,” is ending a pregnancy by taking two different medications, Mifepristone and Misoprostol.

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