Just over a year after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating federal protections for abortion, nearly a quarter of women do not have access to an abortion facility within 90 minutes, putting their lives at risk.
And researchers predict that number could nearly double if additional abortion bills being considered in states pass.
TO study Published in the journal Obstetrics and Genecology, one of the first to create more accurate travel times using real road and geographic data, found that 23.6 percent of women of reproductive age, ages 15 to 49, do not have access to an abortion center within a 90-minute drive. Twenty-nine percent do not have access within a 60-minute drive, and 41.4 percent do not have access to a facility that offers abortions within a half-hour drive.
When combined with women at risk of losing access to an abortion facility due to potential new laws, those numbers rise to 43 percent in 90 minutes, 45.6 percent in 60 minutes, and 53.5 percent in 30 minutes.
While previous studies on abortion access have only used estimated distances to clinics, this study used isochrones, lines on maps that represent an area accessible from a point within a given time, and data from multiple state and local government agencies. to create travel times using real roads, meaning that this study mapped the actual routes that women have to take.
Additionally, due to the ever-changing landscape of abortion rights in the United States, the researchers had to reanalyze their data three times as more bills were passed or challenged in court.
While previous studies on abortion access have only used estimated distances to clinics, this study used isochrones, lines on maps that represent an area accessible from a point within a given time, and data from multiple state and local government agencies. to create travel times using real roads, meaning this study mapped the actual journeys that women have to take
In June 2022, 49 years after Roe v. Wade guaranteed the right to abortion, the decision was overturned in the case Dobbs v. Jackson, who challenged the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi state law that banned most abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. the pregnancy. In the decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the United States Constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion.
Following the ruling, 14 states made abortion illegal, meaning they banned the procedure entirely and enforced the bans through civil and criminal penalties, including fines and prison terms.
In Arkansas, where abortion is illegal, zero percent of women have access to abortion clinics within 30, 60, or 90 minutes. The same is true in Louisiana and Mississippi, which have also banned abortion. Women in Oklahoma don’t have access to clinics within 90 minutes, and none of those clinics are in the state.
In South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, all of which have banned the procedure and have no abortion clinics in the state, less than three percent of women have access to a clinic within 30 minutes. In Texas, where performing, inducing or attempting an abortion is a second-degree felony, only three percent of women have access to a clinic even within 90 minutes.
Washington, DC, where abortion is protected, has the highest accessibility to abortion clinics: 100 percent of women have access to a clinic within 30, 60, and 90 minutes. In Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware, all states that have abortion protections, 100 percent of women have access to an abortion clinic within 60 and 90 minutes.
For the study, researchers from Washington State University, the University of California, Davis, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill used publicly available data from the Planned Parenthood database, the National Foundation’s database. of Abortion, the Abortion Finder database and Power to Decide Database to identify the addresses of 750 abortion clinics in the US.
They used the 2020 census to determine the population of women between 15 and 49 years old. To determine geography and distance, the team obtained road network information from OpenStreetMap and GeoFabrik. The researchers then used isochrones to determine distances.
Previous studies have also found that travel times to access abortion since the Dobbs decision have increased. in a separate study from 2022 that determined average travel times to abortion clinics, those researchers found that before the Dobbs decision, women traveled an average of 27.8 minutes to the nearest facility. After the Dobbs decision, that average time increased to more than 100 minutes.
Additionally, before the 2022 decision, 14.6 percent of women had to travel at least 60 minutes, up from 33.3 percent currently.
People attend an abortion rights rally at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
However, access is “more than laws,” said Dr. Dawn Kopp, vice president of OBGYN at Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and lead author of the recent study.
‘This study highlights that access to abortion is more than just laws. It’s about more than just the state you reside in, because people are allowed to cross state lines to receive medical care. There are many other factors at play.
“This study adds to the stories patients and doctors have already shared by providing objective data on how widespread difficulty accessing comprehensive reproductive health care is in a post-Roe v. Wade America.” Kopp said.
Abortion may be legal in a state, but it may have few facilities or health care providers qualified to perform abortions or the facilities may not be in accessible areas relative to where people live.
By contrast, a state may ban abortions, but some patients may be close enough to a state to be able to travel across borders.
Regardless of why access is limited, the barrier to traveling to a clinic can have real health consequences. Additional research has found that in states with more abortion restrictions, maternal and neonatal mortality increases.
And women with lower incomes face even greater risks because of the money and time it takes to get to an abortion care facility.
Data from 2022 in Texas shows that infant mortality increased by up to a fifth in the year after the state enacted one of the strictest abortion bans in the country.
In another study, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder analyzed state-specific abortion data from 2020 to better understand what abortion bans would mean for maternal mortality rates. If abortions were completely banned in the United States, there could be a 24 percent increase in expected maternal deaths nationwide. For black women, there could be a 39 percent increase.
The researchers determined their estimates based on 2020 statistics on national and state abortion incidence, birth incidence, and updated maternal mortality statistics for all pregnancies.