Assure the right to a life in North Carolina

Published December 29, 2022

By Capitol Broadcasting Company

When North Carolina legislative leaders Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore are asked about their priorities for the 2023 General Assembly, they tick off four: Further restricting access to abortion; Restricting what schools can teach; redrawing congressional election district lines and; Tax cuts.

If Berger and Moore want to demonstrate they are doing more than merely playing to their partisan political base, particularly as concerns abortion, they will talk with equal fervor about the “RIGHT TO A LIFE” as much as they preach about the “right to life.”
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health ruling, it is estimated that there will be as many as 75,000 more babies born in the United States to mothers who otherwise would have had, but no longer have access to, abortions.

It is one thing to demand all women carry pregnancies to term. It is another – but FAR MORE significant – to make sure ALL those women get the prenatal and post-natal care they need; that the babies are delivered safely and will get ALL the care they need for a healthy start to life; and that there is affordable quality childcare available for the parents and children who need it.

The Berger-Moore legislature to date has fallen far short of doing what ALL mothers, babies and their families in North Carolina need.

While infant mortality nationwide has been dropping, in North Carolina it is increasing. The state has the 8th worst in the nation. The 2020 infant mortality rate – the most recent available -- in NC was 6.9 per 1,000 births, up from 6.8 the year before. Meanwhile the national rate in 2020 was 5.4 -- a drop from 5.6 the year earlier. The portion of low birth-weight babies has increased and remains greater than the national rate.

Infant deaths – children who died in their first year of life – accounted for 63% of all child deaths in the state. Leading causes – low birthweight, prematurity, birth defects and maternal complications. All concerns that with proper prenatal care could in most cases, be diagnosed and addressed.

Further, other contributing factors such as being in rural areas with little access to healthcare services, poverty and unemployment can increase risks to pregnant women and their babies.

Sloganeering is easy. Taking action, making decisions and providing the badly needed services to back up rhetoric takes empathy, care and commitment.

One huge step would be for the legislature to end is ban on federally funded Medicaid expansion. More than a half-million North Carolinians – women, children and men, would gain access to affordable health care. Gov. Roy Cooper regularly includes expansion in his proposed budget and legislative leaders continue to block it. It takes a cold-heart to continue to deny this most basic need – at such a small cost – to do this. Forty states, including Indiana, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas, have done it.

It is only common sense, and legislators should insist, that before any efforts are initiated to further limit women’s’ access to abortion services are enacted, the state should expand Medicaid as well as other support to help assure healthy outcomes to pregnancies for women and their babies.