Today, on the first day of Women's History Month, North Carolina abortion rights advocates and legislative champions teamed up to announce the filing of a proactive reproductive rights bill - the Removing Barriers to Gain Access to Abortion Act (the RBG Act).
With the backlash to the election of the first Black president in 2008, in 2010 conservative majorities in North Carolina and other states started passing extreme restrictions on everything from food stamp eligibility to unemployment insurance to voting rights. Reproductive rights were no exception, with North Carolina in just a few years pivoting from a more progressive Southern state on reproductive healthcare to a state that is extremely hostile to abortion access, even though the majority of North Carolinians support access to safe and legal abortion and don't believe the government should interfere in personal health and family decisions.
The right to access abortion has been reaffirmed numerous times by the federal courts, including the U.S Supreme Court, and is supported by the majority of Americans. The RBG Act would be the first step in removing medically unnecessary, politically motivated, and unduly burdensome restrictions on abortion in North Carolina, expanding access to this critical component of reproductive healthcare that accessed by 1 in 4 American women in their lifetimes.
Legislators file “RBG Act” to Expand Reproductive Healthcare Access
Raleigh, N.C. - During a virtual press conference on Monday, March 1st, members of the NC General Assembly, Representative Julie von Haefen (HD 36), Senator Natasha Marcus (SD 41), and Senator Jay Chaudhuri (SD 15), announced the introduction of the Removing Barriers to Gain Access to Abortion Act, (“RBG Act”). HB 188 and SB 167 would eliminate medically unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions that have limited access to reproductive healthcare in North Carolina for many years.
The RBG Act would do four main things to expand access to reproductive healthcare:
- Repeal the biased counseling requirement and 72-hour delay before someone may access abortion care.
- Allow NPs, PAs, and CNMs to provide abortions within their scope of practice.
- Repeal the ban on abortions provided via telemedicine.
- Repeal the insurance/funding bans that prohibit abortion coverage in ACA plans in NC, the state employee health plan, local government employee health plans, and Medicaid.
"If someone needs an abortion, North Carolina has fifteen different barriers in place to prevent that person from receiving necessary medical care,” said Rep. von Haefen. She continued, “These barriers have led to provider shortages and inadequate public health infrastructure, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues. The NCGA should be expanding access to health care, not restricting it.”
Emphasizing the need to roll back barriers to access, Sen. Marcus said, “Current laws restricting access to abortion were designed by politicians to chip away at reproductive freedom and to push abortion out of reach by making it more expensive and harder to access. Our bill addresses these problems so that North Carolinians are not subjected to barriers to care that people in neighboring states are not.”
“Family planning is essential healthcare,” said Sen. Chaudhuri, “Patients must be free to make the decisions that are best for themselves and their families. The RBG Act is about making sure that patients are able to access essential health care, including vital family planning services, no matter where they live or how much money they make.”
Mars Earle, Director of Engagement with the North Carolina Abortion Fund, stressed the importance of this legislation, saying, "Decades of attacks on reproductive freedom by this General Assembly have increased the risks and expenses related to abortion care, making it more inaccessible for people of color, people who live in rural areas, and people of lower-incomes.” They continued, “The RBG Act would reverse previous attacks on reproductive freedom and would make reproductive healthcare safer and more accessible."
Anne Logan Bass is a Planned Parenthood South Atlantic clinician and a healthcare provider in both North Carolina and Virginia. However, she is only able to provide abortion care in Virginia because North Carolina has banned Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants from providing abortion care, “I can’t tell you how many times my patients [in North Carolina] have asked that I perform their abortions because they knew and trusted me already...I hate to have to explain to them that I am not allowed to provide this basic health service to them. It’s heartbreaking because it’s politics, not health care, and it prevents me from providing the best care to my patients.”
“Abortion access is about being able to receive the quality and affordable health care you need, when you need it, from a provider you trust, from within your own community,” said Dr. Erica Pettigrew, MD. She concluded, “North Carolina is nowhere near that vision, but the RBG Act could help us get a little bit closer.”