RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As states across the country are restricting access to abortion, North Carolina has not. However, that could change if Republicans win a super majority in the state legislature this fall.

What would that mean for the state’s economy? If we go back to 2016, we may have a glimpse of the potential impact.

HB2, also known as the ‘bathroom bill’, was a law that stopped most transgender people from using the restroom consistent with their gender identity. It also stopped local communities from passing their own anti-discrimination ordinances.
      
The blowback was swift.

Among those to pull the plug on North Carolina were PayPal, Deutsche Bank, the NBA All-Star game, Jimmy Buffet and Bruce Springsteen. Protestors took to the streets and made their way into the state legislative building.
      
“If you thought HB2 was bad that’s just a walk in the park compared to the type of fundamental economic challenge that this would create for North Carolina. That would just be a drop in the bucket compared to what would happen if we restricted reproductive rights here in North Carolina,” said Patrick McHugh, research manager for the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center.

People gathered outside the capitol on July 4, 2022 holding signs such as “Keep abortion safe + legal” as well as marching up and down Wilmington and Fayetteville Streets chanting “my body, my choice.” (Gilat Melamed).

Industry in central North Carolina is growing so fast it’s hard to keep up. That includes the addition of Apple, Google and Fuji Film. McHugh says companies who rely on recruiting skilled workers will pay close attention to whether the General Assembly decides to restrict abortion access.

“And if North Carolina ceases to be a place where somebody who’s deciding where they want to create their lives, wants to move because access to abortion has been so severely restricted, we’re going to lose the pipeline of talent that is the reason that so many of those tech companies and growth industries have been coming to North Carolina in recent years,” he said.

McHugh believes the biggest impact would likely be on small companies and businesses that continue to have problems filling open positions.

“Reproductive rights really are economic rights in addition to being human rights. So much of the progress that we’ve made as a state over the last 50 years was dependent upon women being able to take control over their own economic reality to enter the workforce, to have the flexibility needed pursue new careers,” said McHugh.

“And we’ve seen in other states the results of when women are denied access to reproductive health care. These things last years. This isn’t just Bruce Springsteen not showing up to do a concert. We’re talking about fundamentally undermining the economic standing of women across North Carolina,” said McHugh.

A year after it was signed into law the state legislature repealed HB2. In a state where polls show a majority of voters approve of some sort of abortion access only the election and mindset of those elected will tell us what lies ahead this time.