What to know about abortion in North Carolina’s Border Belt

By Sarah Nagem


After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, many states are scrambling to tighten restrictions on abortions or ban them. 

In North Carolina, abortions are still legal. But Republican leaders in the state General Assembly have asked Attorney General Josh Stein to reinstate a ban on abortions for women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant. Stein, a Democrat, said on Monday in a Twitter post directed to women that he would “do everything in my power to defend your legal rights and your reproductive freedoms.” 

The Border Belt Independent looked at abortion data in a four-region of southeastern North Carolina: Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties. Here’s what to know. 

What are the local abortion rates?

Counties in the region had lower abortion rates than the statewide figure of 12.1% in 2020, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Resources. 

Bladen County had the highest abortion rate in the region, with 11.3%. Robeson followed with 10.6%. 

Scotland County had an abortion rate of 9.7%, and Columbus County had a rate of 7.7%. 

Abortion rates are measured by the number of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44.

Where are the nearest abortion providers?

There are more than a dozen abortion providers in North Carolina, but none of them are in Bladen, Columbus, Robeson or Scotland counties. 

The closest abortion providers are in Wilmington and Fayetteville – more than an hourlong drive for some residents. 

“Travel-related logistical issues” are a major barrier for women seeking abortion care, according to a 2017 study by the Guttmacher Institute

Who is most likely to get an abortion? 

African American women get abortions at higher rates in the region, just as they do statewide. 

In Robeson County, African American women had an abortion rate of 15.9% in 2020, data shows. (The statewide rate for African American women was 24.2%.) 

Hispanic women in Robeson County had a rate of 9.6%; white women, 9.5%; and American Indian women, 6.5%.  

In Bladen County, African American women had an abortion rate 22.2%. 

A research study published in 2021 by a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder said a total abortion ban would lead to more pregnancy-related deaths for all races and ethnicities. The biggest anticipated increase – 33% – would be for Black people, according to the study, which was published by Duke University Press. 

Does the Border Belt have adequate access to women’s health care?

Bladen County is considered a “maternity care desert,” according to March of Dimes

Maternity care deserts are counties “in which access to maternity health care services is limited or absent,” the organization says. 

Bladen County Hospital closed its birthing center in 2018 after Hurricane Florence damaged the facility. Months later, the hospital announced it would not reopen the center, also citing declining usage

Columbus County, just to the south of Bladen, has “limited maternity care,” according to March of Dimes. 

Robeson and Scotland counties have adequate access to care, the organization says. 

Follow Sarah Nagem on Twitter: @sarah_nagem