Abortion, pregnancy and guns: Looking at some relevant numbers and legislation in North Carolina

July 4, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 4, 2013

Legislation cracking down on abortions popped up suddenly in the North Carolina legislature Tuesday afternoon, much like one of the quick-striking storms that frequently punctuate the Tar Heel summers.

According to The News & Observer of Raleigh, state Sen. Warren Daniel argued that the legislation is needed for women’s safety. Women “deserve the right to walk into a clinic that’s clean and safe,” the Morganton Republican said in one article. Another article quoted Daniel as saying, “We’re taking away the rights of an industry to have substandard conditions.”

But opponents of the bill claim that it is intended to reduce women’s ability to terminate pregnancies, an activity that has been deemed constitutional ever since the Supreme Court’s controversial 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade. House Bill 695, which is called the Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act, would require any clinic that offers abortions to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. A Planned Parenthood representative told the N&O that none of its four facilities in the state currently comply with those regulations.

So how serious are safety concerns over abortion in North Carolina? As Daniel said, per the News & Observer, a Charlotte abortion clinic was shut down briefly this year because it improperly administered a drug. That’s one possible indication of problems. 

Another possible indication is deaths. I wasn’t able to discover how many women in North Carolina have died because of abortions. But in 2008, a year in which the number of abortions performed in the United States has been variously reported as 825,564 and 1.2 million, there were a total of 12 abortion-related deaths throughout the nation. (The Tar Heel State had 27,234 abortions in 2008.) That same year, North Carolina attributed 22 deaths to pregnancy-related causes. About that number of women die due to complications of pregnancy annually in the state.

Also in 2008, the state suffered 371 murders committed with firearms, of which at least 265 involved handguns. (Guns were used in 62 percent of North Carolina’s 597 slayings that year.) In addition, firearms were used in 7,865 robberies, nearly 55.8 percent of the total number of robberies; 7,506 aggravated assaults, or 29.6 percent of all such crimes; and 75 rapes, representing about 3 percent of total rapes. Handguns were employed in 59 of those sexual assaults.

But the North Carolina General Assembly has embraced a very different legislative tack when it comes to gun safety. A bill that would allow concealed weapons to be carried in or at bars, parks, parades and funerals has been approved by the state Senate. The same legislation would also repeal the requirement that handgun purchasers obtain permits from county sheriffs.

The General Assembly has already approved, and Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law, a bill that forbids the state from destroying functioning firearms seized by law enforcement officers. Instead, weapons must be donated to a museum, used by a police agency or auctioned to federally licensed firearms dealers.

If the Assembly has passed or is working on any bills to improve care for pregnancies — remember those 22 annual deaths due to pregnancy? — I’ve yet to hear about it.

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