Health department offers reminder of prenatal care, family services offered after passage of abortion bill

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, May 23, 2023

SALISBURY — With the passing of legislation that bans abortions after 12 weeks, the Rowan County Health Department is preparing to remind residents of the prenatal and family services they provide and making sure both men and women know of resources for family planning.

The “Care for Women, Children and Families Act,” was passed into law last Tuesday after Republicans in both the House and Senate were able to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. The bill bans most abortions after 12 weeks, changes certain health care standards regarding pregnancies and allocates funds for pre- and postnatal care, childcare and foster care services, as well as contraception. The new law is set to take effect on July 1.

“When we look at the bill, we’re starting to think about what this will look like for citizens of Rowan County and what will this mean for the potential need of resources. We are reviewing our processes and making sure we’re getting information out,” said Alyssa Harris, the health department’s director.

Harris brought up a section of the bill that provides funds for long-acting, reversible contraception pills, also known as Larcs, and other contraceptive options that will be available through the health department at a competitive price. Getting the word out that this is available is something Harris said the department will be working on. Harris said she doesn’t have a firm number on how much funding the department will receive from the passing of the bill yet.

She detailed the possibility of starting a media campaign now that the bill has brought women’s health care back to center stage. The campaign would be used to remind people of the health department’s services for women, children and families, which include:

  • Care management services with specially trained social workers who provide assistance to families with children up to five years old who are at risk for developmental delays, and to women and their families who desire help finding resources and services to meet their needs during pregnancy.
  • Family planning services including exams, birth control, education and counseling are provided to women and men.
  • Prenatal care provided to low-income residents of the county by health department staff and local obstetricians on Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon with a sliding fee scale based on financial eligibility. Medicaid is also accepted.
  • The Women, Infant and Children Program, or WIC, which is a nutritional program for women, infants and children that offers nutritional information and vouchers for healthy foods at no cost.

When asked if she thinks the bill will have a negative or positive effect on the overall public health of the county, Harris said she tries not to think in those terms, but rather how her department can best be equipped no matter the outcome.

“What we might end up seeing is more women who are having more children, or more families really. It’s not just women — obviously this issue is for families. So what we want to do is if a family is coming in and they are having an unintended or unplanned pregnancy, what can we do as a health department to surround that person with services,” Harris said. “We are thinking how do we approach this with a compassionate view and making sure we are providing the needed and necessary resources. I think everyone could agree that we all want healthy babies, we want healthy outcomes for mothers and families, and that starts with early prenatal care. That starts with family planning and making sure people are connected to resources.”