On Point submissions are individual member viewpoints and not North Carolina Medical Society policy.


Dr. Beverly Gray
Dr. Jonas Swartz


Doctors: If NC enacts a 12-week ban on abortion, more women will die

Sunday, April 23, 2023 in the Charlotte Observer and News & Observer

By Dr. Beverly Gray and Dr. Jonas Swartz

Esse quam videri.  

Our state motto – “To be, rather than to seem” – should encapsulate the values of North Carolinians. We should stand for truth, honesty, and transparency. But anti-abortion legislation referenced recently by House Speaker Tim Moore aims to do the exact opposite and will put women in danger. Speaker Moore told the media that Republicans have reached an agreement about a 12-week abortion ban, despite outcry from the medical community about the impacts of bans on the women and families of our state. If enacted, such legislation would devastate a woman’s ability to exercise reproductive autonomy and control her health care.

We are OBGYNs who provide comprehensive obstetric and gynecologic care. We see patients on some of their happiest days and some of their saddest. We both provide abortion care because we trust our patients to make the best decisions for their bodies and their families. We also know and love people who have had abortions. We have seen the care we provide save lives and give people their lives back.

Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health U.S. Supreme Court decision, we have also seen the struggles patients in neighboring states overcome to access basic health care. We are currently watching a legal soap opera play out over access to mifepristone, the most common medication abortion drug, despite decades of safe and effective use. Now in many states, patients seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy at six weeks—a five-minute clinic procedure—must take multiple days off work, find care for their kids, travel to another state and find a place to stay, not to mention having the means to cover the cost. In just the six months after Dobbs, over 30,000 women were forced to continue their pregnancies because of these barriers.

If this anti-abortion effort becomes law in North Carolina, the repercussions would be dire both for individual patients and for the public health of our state. Abortion is incredibly safe. These laws hinder our ability to offer evidence-based, safe care. Our country is facing a maternal mortality crisis, and states with abortion bans have maternal mortality rates three times higher than states without bans. Abortion care is part of comprehensive health care and restricting access will mean that more women will die in our state. Like other health outcomes, maternal mortality also has extreme health disparities, meaning the burden of death and injury from pregnancy fall on people of color and people living in poverty. These are the same people who anti-abortion legislators are punishing by cutting off access to life-saving care.

Who should you trust on this issue? The North Carolina Medical Society, the North Carolina Obstetrics and Gynecological Society, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization all oppose abortion bans. Trust the 1,300 medical professionals from North Carolina who co-signed a letter supporting abortion access in our state. They understand that access to care saves lives.

If you don’t trust doctors, trust your fellow North Carolinians. Fifty-seven percent of us either want to keep the laws as they are in North Carolina or expand access. We know that, for some, abortion has not been a dinner table discussion. But now is the moment to bring it up with our friends at churches, barbecues, and basketball games.

This potential legislation is harmful to women’s health and well-being, which is why we vehemently oppose it. Though purporting to be in the best interest of the health of North Carolinians, it will prove to be harmful to the very citizens it aims to help. Women must have the right to make their own decisions about their reproductive health, and they must have access to essential health care services. This is our opportunity to be a beacon of truth, honesty, and health, rather than seeming to. We must stand up and oppose laws that will harm the families in our state. Call your legislator today and tell them why you support access to reproductive health care and oppose these dangerous abortion bans.

Drs. Beverly Gray and Jonas Swartz are associate and assistant professors, respectively, of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University.