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With the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last week, abortion is now banned or will likely soon be banned in most southeastern states. North Carolina is an exception. Experts say that could lead to an influx of patients here.

Some states have already seen what Dr. Beverly Gray of Duke Health calls a “tidal wave effect” of patients coming from places that had passed more restrictive abortion measures even before the high court’s decision.

Gray, speaking as part of a virtual conversation with Duke experts about the legal and medical implications of the ruling, says North Carolina health care professionals are already thinking about how to handle the likely increases.

“We want to help as many people as we can,” she says. “Because we know that abortion is lifesaving, it’s life-altering, and restricting access forces people to continue their pregnancies to delivery, leaving them facing the health risk of pregnancy. And barriers to abortion exacerbate the disparities that already exist in our country.” 

As for states that are trying to limit pregnant people’s ability to travel to places like North Carolina for an abortion, Neil Siegel, a professor of law and political science at Duke University, says the legal landscape isn’t clear. 

But he says the court has historically protected the right to travel and would not likely accept such prohibitions.