‘More Women Are Going to Die’: NC Women Speak Out Against 12-Week Abortion Ban

Graphic by Francesca Daly, Photograph courtesy of Crystina Halcyon

By Keya Vakil

June 1, 2023

“When it comes to the workings of pregnancy and the complications and nuance of all of that, I don’t think politicians are any more qualified than a comedian,” said Cary resident Crystina Halycon. “These are people’s lives that we’re playing with.”

Crystina Halcyon’s abortion story is unremarkable—or as she puts it, “not particularly thrilling.”

Halcyon*, a 33-year-old resident of Cary, had decided long ago that she didn’t want to be a parent, so when she discovered she was pregnant in 2021, she knew what she would do. 

“It was more of a conversation of what are we going to do in terms of getting me care,” she said, rather than a ‘should-I-or-shouldn’t-I’ process of whether to get an abortion. “The whole process took a couple of weeks. I did it as soon as I possibly could.”

Halcyon had to wait more than a week for the earliest available appointment for her initial counseling call, which was—and still is—mandated in the state of North Carolina. During the call, she was counseled on her options as if she were not already aware of them. Then she had to go through yet another barrier and wait 72 hours before being able to actually get abortion care. 

By the time she actually got her abortion, she was six weeks and two days pregnant, which, in a post-Roe world, would mean she’s too far along to have an abortion in more than a dozen states across the country.

Halcyon’s story may not be extraordinary, but it is exceedingly common. 

A 2017 analysis found that nearly one in four American women had an abortion by age 45. While some women have abortions because they are victims of rape or incest, or because they or their fetus face dangerous complications, most seek abortions because they do not want to be forced to give birth and because they have—or at least should have—free will.

“There are many stories like mine … It doesn’t involve abuse or medical complications or a lot of the things that people have to be going through to get attention for this,” Halcyon said. “There’s so many people like me for whom it just felt like a very sane and rational decision.”

Halcyon has no regrets about her decision and was grateful to have access to abortion care. But after Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly last month overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto to pass their 12-week abortion ban, which also makes it harder to get abortions during those 12 weeks where it remains legal, she worries that other women like her won’t have the same freedom and choice she had. 

“The idea of that not being available to others is unacceptable for me,” she said. 


North Republicans could override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of their 12-week abortion ban as soon as Tuesday afternoon, which would make it the law of the land in the state. Cary, NC resident Crystina Halcyon had an abortion in 2021 and knows how important reproductive freedom is. That’s why she has harsh words for the Republicans’ ban, which would mean: – No abortions after 12 weeks, with some exceptions. – More barriers to care in the first 12 weeks. – Restrictions on NC’s 14 existing abortion clinics that could force 6 of them to close. #ncgeneralassembly #ncabortionbill #northcarolinanews

♬ original sound – Cardinal & Pine

Senate Bill 20 (SB 20), which goes into effect July 1st, includes exceptions allowing abortions up to 20 weeks in cases of rape and incest, up to 24 weeks for “life-limiting” fetal anomalies, and during the full term if the mother’s life is at risk. 

Republicans argue their ban is a moderate compromise, because it includes exceptions and allows for first-trimester abortions, but as Reverend Katey Zeh, an Apex native and the CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, points out, it’s all relative.

“The only reason that it appears to be a compromise is because of the draconian bills that we’re seeing elsewhere,” Zeh said. “We’re seeing things that are six weeks or just outright bans, then a 12-week ban seems like a compromise. But if you think about where things were a little over a year ago, these kinds of things were unheard of.”

Zeh also argued—and evidence shows—that because of how strict and punitive many states’ abortion bans are toward providers and hospitals, exceptions written into law rarely lead to exceptions being granted in real life.

“We’ve seen many, many doctors and hospitals are very reticent to provide care even in life-threatening situations with pregnancies,” Zeh said.

The inability to actually get abortions, even with exceptions, has forced women across the country to suffer unimaginable and horrific experiences.  

“There are new stories every day that talk about what this impact is in terms of the physical and overall well-being of people, and it’s like it doesn’t matter,” Zeh said. “That’s the part that’s really, really difficult to reconcile.”

The impending law also establishes new restrictions and requirements that will make it much harder for women to get an abortion during the first trimester. The legislation mandates that women go to two in-person appointments to receive medication abortion care and a third follow-up appointment, with each appointment being at least 72 hours apart from the others, a measure that abortion rights supporters have said will be most difficult for women who have trouble getting off work, have children to care for, or live far from a clinic. 

“I only had to go in once. Under this new [law], I would’ve had to go in three times,” Halcyon said. “This is more like a 10-week ban in practicality rather than a 12-week ban due to those waiting periods.”

The law also implements hugely restrictive regulations on abortion clinics, including new standards and licensing requirements, which could force six of the state’s 14 clinics to close their doors. 

“SB 20 specifically is designed to shut down clinics,” Halcyon said. 

“None of these requirements are in place to protect people trying to get abortions in my opinion. It’s very obvious that these are just regulations, they’re barriers to care,” she added.

Halcyon also expressed fear and anger about who would suffer the most from the ban.

“More women are going to die because of this, and Black women in particular are going to face the brunt of that,” she said. “It’s completely unacceptable, and it’s reflective of colonialism pure and simple when you have a group of mostly white men who are making decisions about life and death, about our reproductive freedoms on behalf of a whole population of people that they don’t necessarily relate to and I fear they don’t care about.”

North Carolina doctors and health experts have expressed similar concerns and were nearly unanimous in their opposition to the ban, arguing it would increase maternal death rates, further strain the state’s health care system, decimate maternal care in rural communities, and cause extensive damage in ways that have yet to get much attention.

Democrats and reproductive rights activists also spoke up during the process, urging Republicans to reconsider their ban. 

“Strong majorities of North Carolinians don’t want right-wing politicians in the exam room,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement after the override vote last month.

A recent Meredith College poll shows that 57% of North Carolinians support either few restrictions at all or keeping the current law—which allows abortions up to 20 weeks and will be replaced with the new law on July 1—in place. Another 9% say abortion should be banned only after 15 weeks, for a total of 66% who do not support a 12-week ban. 

Republicans ignored these concerns and passed their unpopular bill.

“How they can hear these facts and just move on and pass these bills like they didn’t hear anybody—it’s quite literally to me saying, ‘We don’t care about who this is going to affect,’” Halcyon said. 

She expressed particular frustration that the state’s Republican politicians ignored the expert advice of more than 1,500 health care professionals who urged them not to ban abortion.

“Politicians are not doctors. This stuff is very nuanced,” Halcyon said. “When it comes to the workings of pregnancy and the complications and nuance of all of that, I don’t think politicians are any more qualified than a comedian honestly. I don’t see what qualifications they have to be making medical decisions on behalf of others. It’s not a partisan issue. These are people’s lives that we’re playing with.”


Replying to @Cardinal & Pine Rev. Katey Zeh spoke out against North Carolina’ Republicans 12-week abortion ban, which they passed into law on May 16 and will go into effect on July 1. The law will ban all abortions after 12 weeks, imposes burdensome regulations on abortion clinics that could force nearly half of the state’s clinics to shut down, and makes it significantly harder for women to actually get abortions during those first 12 weeks of pregnancy. #ncabortionban #abortionban #northcarolina #nclawssuck

♬ original sound – Cardinal & Pine

For Zeh, the issue of abortion rights ultimately has to do with “embodiment” and being able to make decisions about your own healthcare and your own body. 

“There’s nothing more sacred than the bodies that we have,” she said. “It’s very dehumanizing to be told what you can and cannot do with your body by someone who is absolutely so far removed from your personal life.”

Halcyon called the ability to make the choice of getting an abortion—of having bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom—a “blessing.” If that choice didn’t exist for her—as it doesn’t anymore for millions of American women—she would have been devastated.

“Whenever someone’s put in a situation where they cannot self-actualize, where they don’t have control over a very fundamental part of their life, that’s a recipe for anxiety to the highest degree.”

*Editor’s note: To protect Crystina’s privacy, we agreed to use the last name she uses publicly (Halcyon) rather than her legal last name.


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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