GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Gov. Cooper tackled issues with access to reproductive care alongside Planned Parenthood leadership in Raleigh Wednesday.
But with the closest Planned Parenthood locations anywhere from 50 to 100 miles away from Eastern Carolina, women face even more hurdles to receive that care.
Given that abortion, regardless of medical necessity, is still legal in our state until fetal viability, there are a few options for women seeking that care.
Medications can be prescribed at up to 10 weeks gestation. There is also a surgical abortion where a suction removes the pregnant tissue from the uterus.
With high gas prices and the 20-week ban lingering over their heads, women in the East are looking at even more challenges.
“Clients come to us, and they don’t have any insurance, and it’s really, really hard to get in anywhere if you have no insurance,” Melissa Radomicki said. “You’re going to be charged a ridiculous amount of money for a very minimal service.”
Radomicki works with victims of abuse at the Onslow Women’s Center. When she has to tell them how far they need to travel to get to an abortion clinic, she notices their discouragement.
They have to travel anywhere from 50 to 100 miles to a clinic, like Planned Parenthood, before they can find a medical provider to perform the procedures.
"As far as getting clients to those places, which is another hurdle because a lot of our clients don’t have transportation, or they can’t afford the gas prices right now...” Radomicki explained. “We do work with them to try to mitigate those barriers if abortion is the option that they want to go with.”
Cooper spoke at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh to address those hurdles for women across the state and signed an executive order protecting providers from prosecution by other states for performing abortion procedures.
“This order can help us make sure patients can get the care they need in North Carolina, even if they come from out of state,” Cooper said. “Politicians should not be in that exam room with a patient and her doctor.”
Still, advocates at the Onslow Women’s Center have a wish list of their own.
“I’d love to see some more low-income clinics. I’d love to see some more women’s centered clinics,” Radomicki said. “I think that’s another issue with healthcare in general, is that there’s not a lot of representation.”
According to data from the state Center for Health Statistics, more than 30,000 abortions were reported in our state in 2020, which is an increase of 5% from the year before.
KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - A group of well practiced dancers meet every Tuesday in Kinston to keep their legs moving and their romances marching to the beat.
The Kinston Seniors Dance was held at the Galaxy of Sports skating rink on West Vernon Avenue. With a soundtrack provided by the Carolina Dreamers, single and married folks were invited to twist the night away.
“With COVID and gas prices, it’s been a little slacked, but for the last two or three weeks, we are gaining back and tonight’s the biggest night we’ve had in, what, six months maybe,” said Patsy Pittman, the dance’s organizer. More than 80 people came to dance.
Each Tuesday, the doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the dance floor closes at 10:00 p.m.
For people like Laura Grant-- 102 years young and an available dance partner at the club for 30 years-- picking a favorite step does not come easily.
“I don’t know. I dance with Gilbert. We used to go all the way around the band and the place,” said Grant. “I love the boys!”
They’ve lost much of the group to COVID.
“It’s sad, but we have new people coming in so our job is never ending,” said Pittman.
The event encourages people of all dance skill levels to participate, and along with the smooth dancing comes free-flowing conversation.
Grant says her favorite thing about the dance club is that it gives her something to look forward to.
The senior dance is sponsored by the city’s parks and recreation department but is 100% self-funded. A different band performs every week.
PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - The Pitt County Shelter Buddies Reading Program kicked off Tuesday with about 15 kids signed up to read to dogs experiencing stress in their kennels.
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon this summer, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., kids are invited to bring a parent, a few books, and all the puppy cuddles they can muster to the shelter.
“The dog that I’m reading to over here is Heidi,” said one volunteer. “It makes me feel very special that I get to come here and pick which ones I get to read to.”
The benefits aren’t just for those with four legs. A University of California, Davis study found that literacy improved by 12% in school-aged children when they joined an animal therapy reading program.
For one Pitt County family, the volunteer hour gave them a chance to connect with not only the pups, but also with cherished family memories.
“These used to be mommy’s before they were mine,” 9-year-old Amelie Henry said while she thumbed through pages. “Puss in Boots is falling apart, which is why we needed to put the spine back together.”
It was a touching moment for Henry’s mom.
“About half of the collection that I have in my third-grade classroom and that Amelie has in her library came from books that I had as a child,” Marina Henry said. “When the flood came from Hurricane Floyd, we lost almost everything. My mom said. ‘Wait, let’s check up here.’ We went up in the crawl space and the books were fine.”
While their pages may be worn, the stories are stronger in Amelie’s hands.
“It makes those books all the more special, for them to have survived through some of the most traumatic things that we as adults have been through,” said mom.
The mother and daughter plan on coming back to read to more dogs throughout the summer.
A link to the sign-up can be found here. The program will run through August 26th.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - City Council leaders are moving forward with a project in Greenville that will change the price of visiting the Uptown Greenville area.
During the public comment period, direct addresses to the council showed some people disagreed with what was on the table.
“It’s unfair and it has created a sense of fear for loss of business once it is enforced,” said Jana Palmiter, an employee of Starlight Café on 5th Street.
In a 4-1 vote, with Will Bell not in attendance and Marion Blackburn in opposition, the plan was approved.
From 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., parking on the street of the Uptown district will be free for the first hour and one dollar an hour after that for up to three hours.
In surface lots during those times, the first hour is free and each hour after that is 75 cents.
For residents and workers of the Uptown area, there are a few options when it comes to leasing a parking spot.
Those who live Uptown can pay $70.00 a month for a reserved space or $50.00 a month for unreserved space.
Business owners and employees will pay $20.00 a month per driver.
The leasing rates are a stark year over jump of 220% for workers and 700% for residents with an E-tag permit.
“Now, it’s not the $75.00 for the blanket E-tag,” said Deputy City Manager Michael Cowin, “This is still much more affordable to lease Uptown and live Uptown than they would see in a private lot.”
The pricing still has opposition.
“The city of Greenville claims to support and be an area where small businesses thrive,” said Palmiter. “Please consider the effects in the small businesses downtown and the hundreds of employees who depend on them for their livelihood, such as myself.”
Even with that kind of opposition, the plan will take effect next year.
Applications for residential leases and employer permits will be open in November 2022.
The new rates will begin for street and surface lot parking in January 2023.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - For more than 300,000 children in Eastern Carolina, school lunch is a necessity to get the nutrient-filled meals they need.
With the school year over, some families may be struggling to provide.
But in Greenville, the Salvation Army has partnered with the Food Bank to fill that gap, and all kids have to do is show up.
“Being fed, being full, and being nourished is not a privilege,” said volunteer Barcey Godwin. “It’s a basic human right.”
Until August 26, families can visit the Salvation Army on S. Memorial Dr. for a free meal for kids 18 years old and under every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
Each day the menu is something different.
“Nachos and cheese, some milk, some vegetables and a banana,” said Anna Rossi in between bites. “It was really good.”
For the volunteers, going without food is a struggle that hits close to home.
“If they’re anything like me growing up, school food is the only food you have,” said Godwin.
It’s difficult for parents to keep everything from their children, no matter how hard they try.
Another volunteer, Matt Johnson, recalls growing up with his mom, who had to provide for two kids on one salary.
“I know she hit the food bank several times when I was growing up, probably more than I realized,” said Johnson.
At the end of June, millions of families are expecting the COVID free school lunch program to expire, but food insecurity is nothing new to the East.
“I’m 25 years old. I remember when I was 5 being hungry and there was no COVID 20 years ago,” said Godwin.
On Tuesday, a group of bipartisan lawmakers announced a bill that would extend the food program through the summer.
Amongst those spearheading the effort is republican senator Virginia Foxx from North Carolina’s fifth district.
But the extension has not yet been approved.
To have come through that hardship and make it out to the other side, volunteers are hoping to change the story for the next generation of kids.
“Maybe you’re eating toast because that’s all you’ve got is a loaf of bread and a toaster, but to be able to give people a chance at a relatively balanced meal, it’s definitely something I was interested in trying to do,” said Johnson.
If you are fortunate to not be experiencing food insecurity, volunteers say there is still something you can do to help: get the word out about the program.
In the first two days of the program, they have given away just 15-percent of the lunches they have available.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Tuesday marks the longest day of the year and the official start of summer, but with gas prices in Eastern Carolina flirting with $5 a gallon, plans are shifting for motorists.
The Summer Solstice means people are looking at more than 14 and a half hours of daylight, the most seen this year. The amount of sunlight means people have a lot of time to work with this summer, but increased inflation means quite another thing for families and their plans.
After Juneteenth and Father’s Day, drivers are hoping for another special day, a gas tax holiday. The day would look like an 18.3 cent discount per gallon when people go to fill up. However, it would require congressional action, and lawmakers aren’t yet jumping into motion.
President Biden is also considering a gas rebate card system as part of the operation. The administration’s course of action should be laid out later this week.
Until then, drivers in the East are working with what they have.
“As you see right now, I’ve got a load,” driver Malyle Braxton says. “It’s more than $85 to fill up every other day because I ride all day. Shoot, it’s been hot since April. Heat, heat! You better have a hat or something.”
The heat has been something Eastern Carolinians have been dealing with for months now, as Braxton alludes to.
Congressional Democrats have not been quick to back the president on the gas tax holiday, saying that the legislation would not provide much relief, particularly if retailers raise their base price per gallon in response.
PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - For the tenants of the Pitt County Animal Shelter, life hasn’t always been a catwalk, but with the completion of a year-long renovation project, the kennel doors are wide open for business.
“As the community grows, so does the population,” said shelter director Chad Singleton. “There’s an overpopulation in North Carolina as a whole and in Pitt County.”
The animal shelter was operating under decreased capacity, limiting the number of surrenders they could take, but now there is something to bark about.
The shelter is celebrating a grand re-opening with more space and new equipment to better care for Pitt County’s four-legged citizens.
“The best part, for me, is the community cat room because people come in, they sit down, they can play with the kittens, they can stay there an hour,” said shelter employee Morgan Alderman. “It’s more likely to help them adopt a kitten versus seeing them in a cage.”
More kennel space, new meeting rooms, and industrial laundry all make up parts of the new and improved shelter operations, but animal advocates say this shouldn’t be a cat or dog’s home.
"The reality is that although we have a lot of resources for the community, the shelter itself is probably one of the last places that you would want to bring an animal because of the stress that the dogs undergo when they come here," said Singleton.
For the public, the shelter has a message.
“The best thing that the public can do is spay and neuter their animals,” said Alderman. “That is the most important thing because if you don’t, a cat will have anywhere from 6 to 10 kittens and if you have three of those cats, how many kittens are you going to have?”
Also, consider making room for one of these shelter animals to find their fur-ever home in your heart.
You can find a list of animals available for adoption here.
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Millions of people across the United States have expressed their condolences to the loved ones lost in the recent string of mass shootings, most notably the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Many even have expressed their demands for reformed gun laws to prevent other mass shootings from threatening the lives of children and Americans in general.
And Tuesday evening, those expressions came from children themselves, in the form of the Jacksonville Youth Council.
WITN was at Jacksonville City Hall where a gun violence awareness ceremony took place.
The goal of the event was for the youth to be there for each other in a difficult time and for them to make clear what they would like to see change.
Morgan McRae is the chairperson of the youth council, as well as a rising senior at Jacksonville High School. She spoke about how the Uvalde school shooting has impacted her.
“The tragedy has impacted me by really just becoming more aware of my surroundings and honestly just being aware that there’s dangers everywhere, even at school,” Mcrae said. “I feel like school is a place students should be able to go and feel safe, and seeing every day on TV students being killed at school is not a good feeling.”
McRae then elaborated upon what the mission of the ceremony Tuesday was.
"The message that I hope people are able to take away from this is that this violence has to stop. It’s not getting us anywhere and it’s really negatively impacting the youth and this cycle’s just going to continue," said Morgan McRae, Jacksonville Youth Council chairperson.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The Eastern North Carolina Rescue Squad is planning to perform safe-and-well checks from Monday until Friday due to the severe heat our region is experiencing.
The checks will be for anyone who may be without access to air conditioning, cold water, or ice. The service is completely free for those within the limits of Pitt County.
The squad is self-described as equal parts intervention and education, and the entire team is made up of volunteers.
The rescue squad did something similar a few months ago when the East was dealing with the opposite kind of extreme weather: freezing temperatures.
Now with temperatures getting close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the squad is looking to make rounds on any elderly neighbors or folks experiencing house insecurity or health problems.
“A lot of the populations, when we go out there, especially people who don’t have air conditioning, they don’t open their windows, they don’t have a lot of access to the safety information that they need in order to mitigate the loss of power or no air conditioning... things like that,” Mathias Tschrnko, ENC Rescue Squad chief officer said.
Anyone interested in the service can head over to the Eastern North Carolina Rescue Squad’s Facebook page. There you will find a form to fill out the required information like address, safety concerns, and more.
The rescue squad will stop by with water, ice, and information about how to stay safe.
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WITN) - A nationally-known civil rights attorney said the family of Andrew Brown, Jr. will be taken care of with a $3 million dollar settlement against Pasquotank County.
The family of Brown filed a $30 million civil rights lawsuit last year after the man was killed in April of 2021 by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies while they were serving drug-related warrants at his Elizabeth City home.
The killing captured national attention and sparked protests calling for justice. A protest was held as recently as April of this year to mark the one-year anniversary of Brown’s death.
The county’s insurance policy, which was provided by the North Carolina Counties Liability and Property Joint Risk Management Agency, will pay the limits of its policy, which is $2 million.
The remaining $1 million will be paid by a special appropriation approved by the Pasquotank County Commissioners.
“I still want to give my sincerest condolences to the Brown family,” Sheriff Tommy Wooten said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference in front of the Pasquotank County Courthouse. “Not a whole lot to say to make that much better. But it happened and we’re gonna try to stay positive and move forward from here.”
No state charges were brought against the deputies involved in the shooting, but the U.S. Justice Department has an ongoing federal investigation to see if any federal civil rights laws were violated.
Attorney Harry Daniels told reporters today that no amount of money can take the place of Brown who is survived by seven children.
“The settlement was designed to make sure Andrew Brown Jr.’s children are taken care of. It does that for years to come,” said Daniels. “You can read between the lines, as such, but they are satisfied with the settlement. Actually, they want other things to take place but at this point as far as the civil matter they are satisfied.”
Wooten said he hopes the settlement brings some closure to the events that have taken place and that a lot has happened over the past year, pointing out that his deputies are better trained now. “We have severely advanced our training to be able to do our job more efficiently,” said the sheriff.
When asked how much of the settlement money the family will receive, Daniels said that was confidential.
Every story you see here is written, filmed, edited, fronted, and day-turned by Maddie. As an MMJ with WITN, she really does it all!