Nearly a third of women of reproductive age in the US live more than an hour from the nearest abortion facility after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion earlier this year, a study found.
When more than a dozen states banned full or partial abortion after the Supreme Court ruling, the number of facilities actively offering abortion care was cut by nearly one-tenth, from 749 facilities to 671, as reported in a study published this month. Journal of the American Medical Association.
With this decline in facilities, the average travel time to receive abortion care has more than tripled, from about 28 minutes to 100 minutes in 2021 after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, a team According to the study done by which included researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital; Boston University School of Public Health; University of California, San Francisco, Harvard University; and Harvard Medical School.
The study found that in states that have total abortion bans and laws restricting abortion, travel time increased by an average of more than four hours as early as six weeks of pregnancy.
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Southern states were the most affected. Despite being able to travel as little as 15 minutes to an abortion prior to Dobbs’ decision, women in Texas and Louisiana now have to travel an average of more than six hours.
“We need to better understand low access to this essential healthcare service and what resources we need to regain that access,” said Yulin Huswen, senior assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. need to invest in.” study authors said in a statement.
Terry McGovern, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said the study’s results were not surprising and “aligned with the very dire results we were all expecting after Dobbs.”
“The Supreme Court of the United States took away a right from women, girls and pregnant people, and it is clearly causing severe hardship in every possible way,” she said.
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McGovern said the increase in travel time feeds into a number of other barriers, including abortion seekers needing to spend more money on travel, taking extra time off from work and finding childcare. She said these barriers are only extended to marginalized communities and those who are uninsured or have low incomes.
“Obviously, it’s going to be easier for people who have money, access and resources and don’t have to deal with structural racism and transphobia,” McGovern said. “Research like this tells us that the Supreme Court has placed an additional burden on a population that already faces many persistent structural barriers.”
Nearly 40% of black women must travel more than an hour for abortion care, compared to 15% before the Supreme Court decision, according to the study. More than half of American Indian and Alaska Native women have to travel more than an hour for abortion care.
The study found that women without health insurance or with low incomes also face longer trips for abortion care.
“Abortion remains out of reach for many people, especially people of color, people in low-income, rural communities,” said Hillary Schneller, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “After the Dobbs decision, it’s only gotten worse.”
Schneller said that in states where abortion is legal, many of the remaining active clinics are now seeing an influx of patients traveling long distances for care. She said clinics have not been able to keep up with demand, creating long wait times for “very time-sensitive abortion care”.
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Both McGovern and Schneller expressed hope that abortion bans in some states could be appealed. They would also like to see the Dobbs decision overturned.
McGovern suggested ballot initiatives to ensure access to procedures, including telemedicine and medications, and to “be more creative in thinking about where health services are located and more convenient ways to offer services.”
Schneller also noted that telehealth and abortion pills by mail are ways to increase access to abortion care, but added that “some of these avenues are not accessible to the communities most affected by abortion restrictions.” For example, both options often require Internet access, which may not be available for many rural communities, she said.
“None of these is going to be a complete solution,” she said. “But great work is being done on all these fronts to help people access health care in their communities, whether through telehealth, abortion pills by mail, or going to a clinic to see a doctor. “