For 14 years, a state fund to help poor women pay for abortions has existed in name only.
Now, some want to end what remains of it.
With North Carolina facing an estimated $2 billion shortfall, a budget official recommended last week that Gov. Beverly Perdue eliminate the $50,000 annual budget for the State Abortion Fund.
Because of restrictions on how it can be used, none of that money has been spent since 1995. Each year, it is returned to the state's general fund.
Eliminating it would be a tiny step toward helping the state meet its constitutional mandate to balance the budget. But it would also start a tug-of-war between anti-abortion and abortion-rights groups already fighting over other legislation.
Barbara Holt, executive director of N.C. Right to Life, said she would like to eliminate the program as well as paying for abortions through the state employee health plan and a children's health insurance program. She said it was an important symbol, even if the fund has not been used.
"Even one abortion is one too many," she said.
On the other side, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina head Sean Kosofsky argued that the fund is not just a symbol. He said his group still hopes to convince lawmakers to reduce the restrictions and increase funding for the program.
"We think it's important to leave that money in place to send a message that this is a state that cares about women's reproductive health," he said.
Perdue has not yet taken a stand on the program, but her spokeswoman, Chrissy Pearson, said the recommendation was one of dozens from agency officials that came in during the end of former Gov. Mike Easley's administration and the first days of Perdue's. She said Perdue will take a closer look at all of the suggestions.
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