CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — With abortion access being a prominent issue for the North Carolina legislature in the upcoming session, a college student passionate about reproductive rights is sharing impacts she has seen regarding the topic.

The school semester is over for UNC graduate and current University of Buffalo Ph.D. student Jessica Mencia, but her work continues. 

Her focus is social work, but since her time in college, she’s been passionate about abortion and reproductive rights.

What You Need To Know

  • Abortion access is one issue the North Carolina legislature will look at in the upcoming session
  • Jessica Mencia is a Ph.D. student who has volunteered with Carolina Abortion Fund

  • Mencia says abortion access is important for North Carolinians and people in surrounding states

“I didn’t grow up talking about it, but I was always aware that it was something that was important because my mom was expressing to me how people would go to great lengths before abortion was legalized to have an abortion. So pretty unsafe abortions,” Mencia said.

During her time in Chapel Hill, Mencia was on the board of Carolina Abortion Fund.

She would volunteer to work the phone lines, and her very first day of calls made an impact she can’t forget.

She spoke with a woman who had been assaulted and was looking for help to find funding.

“It’s just one of those things that people will bring up when they’re talking about abortion accessibility. They’ll mention it, but you never quite hear someone's story and the panic in their voice and like how much it means to them to get this funding, like the humanity of it, really struck me,” Mencia said.

Since then, she’s continued to learn about abortion access and inaccessibility.

Even though it is still legal in North Carolina through 20 weeks, Mencia says abortion access is difficult to come by.

“North Carolina has a waiting period. North Carolina has a requirement for ultrasound. Thankfully, North Carolina, after Roe fell, is a state that’s supporting the other states in the South, some of the states like Tennessee, Alabama, some of those. But abortion is still pretty inaccessible in North Carolina,” Mencia said.

Abortion is one issue of many the North Carolina legislature will look at in the upcoming session.

The state Senate has a Republican supermajority, while the House is one vote short.

Both Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said they believe there is legislation that can be passed.

Neither leader would speak to details of what that legislation would look like, but said the goal is bipartisanship.

“We have a caucus that represents a pretty broad spectrum, particularly on this issue, and try to get consensus on something that is that is good for North Carolina,” Moore said.

“Whatever we do when we do it, we’re going to try to, you know, be bipartisan, reach broad consensus and tackle what has been clearly a tough issue facing this entire nation for 50 years now.”

Mencia says access is not only important for North Carolinians. She says our state is a threshold for access in the South and providing care for others who can’t get it at home.

“North Carolinians that maybe do have access to a clinic, but that clinic may be at risk of shutting down if bans continue, and then I’m also just concerned for other disadvantaged people in the South. So other people of color in the South, other low-income people in the South,” Mencia said. “It’s basically like disadvantages build on disadvantages and further hurt people who need really need access.”