Abortion in the United States: women traveling to seek abortions

HomeNewsAbortion in the United States: women traveling to seek abortions

Kenya Nicol


The number of abortions has skyrocketed in several states in the United States since the constitutional guarantee of abortion was overturned in 2022. The Supreme Court had overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which protected access to abortion at the federal level since 1973. Since then, women have been forced to undertake difficult and expensive journeys to have an abortion.

Republicans and Democrats, divided on the issue

The issue of abortion authorization now falls to the states. Partly controlled by Republicans, many have decided to severely restrict or even completely ban the right to abortion. Another part, mainly Democrat-controlled, has increased protections. It is currently challenging to assess the total number of abortions since the summer of 2022. Data from medical facilities and organizations providing abortion pills by mail are fragmented. But despite the bans, the number of abortions has increased.

In several states neighboring those that have banned abortion, the number has surged, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, a leading research center defending women’s right to abortion. The organization explains that “many residents of states where abortion has been banned travel to neighboring states for abortions,” based on samples from the official healthcare system (hospitals, clinics, physician offices).

New Mexico and Illinois: top destinations for abortion

The numbers reported by the Guttmacher Institute are striking. New Mexico recorded a 220% increase in abortions compared to 2020. This Southwestern state, which has introduced protections for abortion, borders Texas and Oklahoma, where it has been restricted or banned except in rare cases. The same scenario applies to Illinois, bordering Indiana and Missouri, which saw a 69% increase, as well as Colorado (+89%), surrounded by the restrictive states of Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, and Nebraska.

The National Abortion Federation funded 982 trips by plane, train, or bus from July 2022 to May 2023, an increase of 235% compared to the same period the previous year. When travel is not possible, some women manage to obtain abortion pills. In late 2022, a study published in the scientific journal JAMA indicated a significant increase in requests for shipping these pills from abroad.

Laws “shield” to protect those who send abortion pills to restrictive states

Since then, several states such as New York and Massachusetts have adopted “shield” laws to protect healthcare professionals residing in their states and shipping these tablets to states where abortion is banned. Linda Prine, a physician involved with the activist organization Aid Access, practices in New York, which adopted the legislation in June. In the month following, Aid Access sent pills to 3,500 people living in states where abortion is banned. Since then, the numbers have doubled and continue to increase, according to Dr. Prine.

A rise in abortions that began in 2019

During this evolution, experts remain cautious. Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, emphasizes that an increase in the number of abortions in several states had been observed since 2019. It is also possible that the expansion of access to abortion in some states, especially in rural areas, contributes to this increase. But according to him, “the extent of the increase is such that we are almost certain it is due to the increase in travel” from states where abortion is restricted or banned.

Alison Norris, a professor at Ohio State University and co-chair of #WeCount, a research project collecting data from establishments performing abortions, also believes that these increases are partly due to “people who have managed to overcome obstacles and travel to another state.” However, both experts insist that this increase should not overshadow the difficulties these women face, including the financial and logistical costs of travel, as well as constraints related to work and childcare.

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