- More than twice as many pregnant people crossed state lines to get an abortion in the first half of this year than during the same period in 2020 when the procedure remained legal, according to new data.
- Roughly 92,100 people traveled out of state for an abortion in the first six months of 2023. That’s compared to 40,600 people in the first six months of 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
- The data highlights how convenient access to abortion care has been eliminated in many states after the fall of Roe v. Wade last year, forcing some patients to travel long distances for healthcare.
The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision in June 2022 ended Roe and resulted in the complete banning of abortion in roughly a dozen states, sparking a rise in interstate travel as patients sought out the procedure.
The Guttmacher Institute said its report is the first to quantify the extent to which that interstate travel has grown since the Dobbs decision.
Nearly one in five abortion patients traveled out of state to get an abortion in the first half of this year, compared with one in 10 during the same period in 2020, the Guttmacher Institute found.
Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a data scientist at Guttmacher, in a statement called the findings “stunning” and illustrative of “just how disruptive the overturning of Roe has been for tens of thousands of abortion patients.”
States where abortion has remained legal but that border states with total abortion bans or early gestational bans have seen the greatest uptick in interstate travel for abortions, according to the report. Illinois saw the biggest increase in interstate abortion travel by far, as it borders three states with total abortion bans and allows abortion prior to fetal viability, researchers noted.
New Mexico, Colorado and Ohio also saw large increases, as they border multiple states that have either banned abortion outright or restricted it severely.
The fall of Roe created patchwork access to abortions in the U.S.
Florida also saw an increase in out-of-state abortion patients, which is unique given abortions are difficult to access within the state, researchers noted. However, access is more handicapped in surrounding states.
That situation could change: Though abortions are currently allowed up to 15 weeks of pregnancy, Florida’s Supreme Court is currently reviewing a case that will determine whether a proposed six-week ban can go into effect.
“If it does, such a ban could drastically reduce abortion access for the entire Southeast,” researchers wrote.
Guttmacher’s data doesn’t capture the experiences of people who haven’t been able to navigate abortion bans, the report said. Traveling for an abortion isn’t a solution for patients who may find it cost prohibitive, or are unable to take time off of work or leave their families.
Some deep-red states have been considering or flat-out attempting to restrict interstate travel for abortion. Earlier this year, Idaho became the first state to explicitly restrict interstate travel for the procedure by passing legislation criminalizing helping a pregnant minor obtain an abortion.
The so-called “abortion trafficking” law was paused by a federal judge in November amid a lawsuit condemning it as unconstitutional.
Even in states with exceptions, abortion bans have been shown to have a chilling effect on obstetric care, threatening the health of pregnant people.
Texas, for example — one of the first states in the U.S. to pass a near-total abortion ban — is currently being sued by women who were denied abortions despite being in medical crisis.
The Guttmacher Institute also tracks U.S. abortions by month. Thursday’s report is the first to include the impact of South Carolina’s ban on abortions that went into effect in late August. Abortions decreased from 750 in August to 160 in September — an almost 80% decline, researchers found.
However, that data only includes abortions provided within the formal healthcare system (not self-managed abortions), so it could be an undercount.