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.
N.C. (WITN) - U.S. Congressman Greg Murphy is receiving backlash for a tweet he sent and then deleted a few hours later.
The tweet read: “No one forces anyone to have sex” and was sent just days after the overturning of Roe v. Wade removed the federal protection of abortions.
WITN reached out to the congressman, who denied an on-camera interview, but gave the following statement:
“Sex is a term I’ve always used when dealing with consensual action. Intercourse when forced or nonconsensual is assault or rape, and that is abhorrent. I deleted the tweet when I noticed it was being misinterpreted or misconstrued. I regret any confusion this has caused.”
Murphy’s upcoming challenger at the voting polls responded to the deleted tweet and Murphy’s explanation.
“I am in agreeance that sometimes things can be misconstrued, but as a woman, I personally refuse to step back,” Barbara Gaskins, North Carolina 3rd District candidate said.
One victim advocate in Pitt County says the tweet could cause sexual assault survivors to be more fearful and keep them from coming forward.
“It just makes a person who has been victimized say, ‘well, if there are people out here who don’t believe that rape is real or forced sex is real, then why would I even come forward?” Deborah Sheppard said.
Sheppard not only works with victims of abuse daily, but she also has a special connection to their struggle. “I am a survivor of abuse, so I do understand the fear of speaking up.”
She also shared a message for anyone feeling that intense fear.
“It’s easier to say this than for someone to do it, so just be patient with yourself and know that there are people out here that will help you when you’re ready.”
There are national and local resources available for survivors of rape and sexual assault. In Pitt County, Sheppard’s team makes sure victims understand their rights and then they help them cope with the consequences of the crime, and work through some of the paperwork for court proceedings and compensation.
In Greenville alone, 27 rapes were reported in 2020, a 35% increase from the year before.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-4673. That number offers 24-hour confidential support to victims.
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.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Eastern Carolina cyclists rode in silence Wednesday evening in honor of riders who have been killed or injured on the road.
The Ride of Silence is a worldwide event advocating for safer streets for cyclists. Eastern Carolinians taking part rolled out at 6:30 p.m. at the Greenville Bike Company on Clark Street.
Steven Hardy-Braz mounted his bike for the first time since a crash almost left him dead. The thing he loved most, cycling, became one of his hardest moments to overcome.
“In life, we have to make sure our fears don’t dominate us, but we can overcome them,” Hardy-Braz said. “But we always need to take precautions and be safe.”
Hardy-Braz followed that mantra and organized a Pitt Counter chapter of the 12-mile Ride of Silence.
In the East, cyclists have formed a strong community.
“We just enjoy being out in the country on our bikes, fellowshipping with each other, just talking and having a good time out in the open,” cyclist Johnny Fleming said.
Four feet of space is the law in our state that motorists have to give room on the road. Hardy-Braz sees that as an ultimate liability.
“If I’m going to be a responsible husband, father, friend, brother, son... I need to be careful, and I always have to outweigh the dangers of anything I do in life versus the enjoyment,” Hardy-Braz said. “But for me, it’s a recreation or a choice in transportation. Other people, it’s the only choice they have.”
Hardy-Braz advocates for everyone moving on two wheels, but cyclists know they have a responsibility on the roads too.
“Follow all the traffic laws, ride with the traffic, and don’t weave in and out in traffic,” he said. “That’s what I do when I’m riding.”
After 12 miles of silence, the riders had a lot on their minds.
“Just thinking about being able to ride free, have fun, remembering some of the people that got injured just trying to cycle on the highway,” Fleming said.
People can see pictures from those who participated in the ride across the globe by searching the hashtag: #RideofSilence2022 on social media.
N.C. (WITN) - Gov. Cooper and the North Carolina General Assembly were given recommendations on how to lower the child fatality rates in the state.
New data reveals that North Carolina has the eighth-highest infant mortality rate in the country.
The report was created by the Child Fatality Task Force. They say more than 1,200 children died in the state in 2020.
Over 100 baby deaths each year are caused by unsafe sleeping environments.
“Few people would realize just how many infant deaths occur in an unsafe sleep environment,” Kella Hatcher, the group’s executive director said. “If we can do better at teaching folks about what an unsafe sleep environment is and how to avoid that, we really can prevent a lot more of those infant deaths.”
In Eastern Carolina, Martin County has the highest infant mortality rate at 1.75%. Bertie County is second at 1.69%, and Beaufort County is third at 1.40%.
The state currently spends $45,000 on programs to prevent infant deaths, but the task force says it’s time to raise that budget.
They recommend spending a little over $2.00 per North Carolina baby and devoting $250,000 each year to that precaution.
“We’d love for healthcare providers, plus everyone else, in addition to the governor and the General Assembly to really be informed about this because that’s what the task force was created to do: to study and report on this data and to make recommendations to prevent future child deaths and maltreatment," said Kella Hatcher, Child Fatality Task Force executive director.
The report also found that areas of the state with the highest child death and infant mortality rates were also areas with other high-risk factors.
Black infants in North Carolina are 2.5 times more likely to die than white infants.
“We’re focusing really on social determinants of health,” Hatcher said. “When we look at those geographic maps, we see that the highest rates tend to be the areas that also have the highest social determinant of health risk factors such as poverty, unemployment, and things like that.”
While the data from 2020 across the state represents about half of the number of deaths North Carolina saw in the 1990s, the numbers have stayed relatively unchanged over the past decade.
This is a clue for the task force that means the systems can be improved.
Each of the state’s 100 counties has a local child death review team to highlight systemic failures and work to prevent future death and mistreatment, but there is no centralized state-level coordination.
The task force recommends creating that system and joining the 47 other states that integrate national data in their practice. It would cost the state about $550,000 per year.
The full report by the Child Fatality Task Force can be found here.
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!