North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed at improving access to reproductive health care in the state.
The ordinance takes several steps to defend existing services in North Carolina, including declaring that patients who have abortions or providers who perform abortions will not be penalized or criminalized for providing, receiving, or requesting health services. reproductive.
The executive action comes nearly two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, who had guaranteed the right to abortion for almost 50 years.
Cooper’s order establishes that all cabinet agencies, or those within the governor’s office, “should coordinate and seek opportunities to protect individuals or entities providing, assisting, seeking, or obtaining reproductive health services.” legal in North Carolina.”
It further states that Cabinet agencies cannot require a pregnant Cabinet agency employee to travel to a state that has restrictions on access to reproductive health care that do not include exceptions favoring the health of the pregnant employee.
The order says it does not change North Carolina law, but rather ensures that residents of North Carolina will continue to have a protected right to access and perform abortions, alongside other reproductive care.
As other states maintain abortion bans, North Carolina is increasingly becoming a “critical access point” for those seeking reproductive health services, according to the order.
“Research demonstrates that unnecessary restrictions and denials of reproductive health care rights have adverse consequences for people’s health, security and economic stability…[and] disproportionately impact people of color, people with disabilities, people with low incomes, and people living in rural areas,” the order reads.
Cooper spoke at a press conference when he signed the order.
“The Supreme Court snatched away the constitutional right to reproductive freedom that women have relied on for five decades,” Cooper said Wednesday.
“Right now, it’s up to the states to determine whether women get reproductive health care, and in North Carolina they still can, thanks to my veto and enough legislative votes to keep it going. I’m determined to make it so and people need to know that their votes in the state legislative races in November will determine the fate of women’s health and liberty in our state,” Cooper continued.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, was with Cooper as the executive order was signed.
“Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, North Carolina has become an increasingly critical entry point for people traveling for abortion care, including from South Carolina and Tennessee. neighbors, where lawmakers in both states quickly banned most abortions,” Johnson said at the signing.
“Now we must continue to do everything in our power to ensure that abortion remains accessible in North Carolina, both for North Carolinians and for those forced to flee their own state in the midst of growing restrictions and cruel bans,” she added.
In a statement on Wednesday, Cooper said North Carolina has already seen an influx of patients from other states seeking abortion care.
Citing data from Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Cooper said a third of North Carolina’s planned abortion patients this week came from different states.
“That means there should be at least 10,000 people coming to North Carolina to access reproductive health care services, primarily from states with stricter bans and restrictions. These are Planned Parenthood numbers only and do not include estimates from other state-trusted vendors,” Cooper said in the statement.
Dr. Katherine Farris, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, was quoted in the governor’s press release on Wednesday.
Farris said the highest priority for abortion providers in North Carolina is to provide patients with the care they need.
“Abortion is an integral part of reproductive health care. Each person is the expert on their own life, and we must trust them to make their own decisions about their health, family and future,” Farris said in the statement.
“The doors to Planned Parenthood South Atlantic Health Center remain open and we are not going anywhere,” she added.
Jenny Black, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic, said in the statement that voters in North Carolina must continue to support candidates who will keep abortion legal in the state.
“For now, abortion is still legal in North Carolina. But our reproductive freedom is hanging by a thread. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade paved the way for state lawmakers for them to adopt a total ban as early as next year,” Black said.
“The future of abortion access, not just for North Carolina, but potentially for the entire Southeast region, hangs in the balance in 2022, and we thank Governor Cooper for his strong advocacy of reproductive freedom today,” Black added.
As states continued to uphold abortion bans in the Southeast, other eastern states signed orders similar to Cooper’s in support of abortion access.
The Democratic governors of Maine and Rhode Island both signed executive orders on Tuesday in favor of abortion rights, which guarantee the protection of abortion patients and providers.
The Republican governor of Massachusetts last month signed an executive order to protect access to abortion in the state, ensuring its legality there.
In South Carolina, abortion has been banned for six weeks. In Tennessee, abortion also became illegal after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape and incest.
Alabama has made abortion completely illegal, with no exceptions for rape and incest.