Abortion Votes in Three GOP-led States Could Sharply Expand Abortion Deserts

Lawmakers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Nebraska are considering strict abortion bans for their states.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Lawmakers in three states are poised to pass strict abortion bans as soon as this week – actions that could transform the Southeast into an abortion desert and further curtail access in the Great Plains. 

  • North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature is set to vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) veto of a bill that would ban most abortions after 12 weeks.
  • South Carolina lawmakers are trying to force a vote on a six-week ban, after a near-total ban failed to pass the Republican-controlled state senate earlier this year.
  • Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is debating today whether to attach a 12-week abortion ban to a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors.

In addition to reducing the window in which surgical abortions are legal, the North Carolina and South Carolina bills would impose new requirements on medication abortion. Both states would require a follow-up visit after a medication abortion, and North Carolina would make the treatment available through 10 weeks of pregnancy – down from 11. South Carolina would require counseling 72 hours before a surgical or medication abortion.

Why it matters: All three states currently allow abortions up to at least 20 weeks of pregnancy, making them a destination for people seeking abortion care from more restrictive states nearby. And all three have seen an uptick in the number of people seeking abortions since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, despite an overall decline in the number of abortions nationwide.

In Nebraska, “any additional ban here would have an impact on the region,” said Andi Grubb, state executive director at Planned Parenthood North Central States. “We have seen an increase in folks coming from other states to get the care that they can no longer get in their home states,” she said. South Dakota currently bans nearly all abortions, and lawmakers in Iowa are trying to pass more restrictive laws.

The impact of bans in the Carolinas could be even greater. While Georgia and Florida currently allow abortions up to six and 15 weeks respectively, the rest of the Southeast effectively bans the procedure outright.

“North Carolina has become an access point in the Southeast,” Cooper said on Face the Nation last Sunday. “And what this legislation is going to do is prevent many women from getting abortions at any time during their pregnancy.”

The context: North Carolina saw 4,730 more abortions in the six months after the Dobbs decision compared to baseline, according to a report from WeCount, a national abortion reporting initiative. Only Florida and Illinois saw larger increases. South Carolina reported about 1000 more abortions in 2022 than in 2021, according to preliminary data, with nearly half coming from out of state starting in September.

While nearly 80 percent of abortions nationwide occur before 10 weeks of pregnancy, restrictive bans can still impede access. Strict bans in the Carolinas would create a wider abortion care desert in the region. 

Start your day with the biggest stories and exclusive reporting from The Messenger Morning, our weekday newsletter.
By signing up, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use.
Sign Up.