Dec 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy
Axios Explains: Abortion

Abortions could require 200-mile trips if Roe is overturned

Data: Myers Abortion Facility Database on OSF; Map: Thomas Oide and Sara Wise/Axios

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the average American could have to travel around 125 miles to reach the nearest abortion provider, compared to the current average of 25 miles, according to the Myers Abortion Facility Database.

State of play: 12 states will immediately restrict abortion if Roe disappears, and others would be likely to impose significant new restrictions.

  • Driving the news: The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a challenge today to a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The case is a direct challenge to Roe.

By the numbers: The percentage of people living over 200 miles away from a provider would increase from 1% to 29%, according to the database.

Myers' data complements a report from the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that researches reproductive rights, which found that people seeking abortions in southern and Midwest states would have to travel hundreds of miles to access the procedure.

  • In Florida, for example, the average one-way driving distance under a total abortion ban would be 575 miles — a 6,803% increase. Currently, people travel around 8 miles one-way to reach the closest provider.
  • Louisiana residents seeking abortion care would have to travel the longest distances, 666 miles one-way. Currently, they travel approximately 37 miles one-way.

What it's like now: "Large areas of the U.S. — particularly in the central region of the country — already have no options within a 250-mile drive, and some counties are at least 350 miles from the nearest abortion provider," Axios' Tina Reed reported.

  • West Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota all have areas that are at least a four-hour drive from a provider.

Between the lines: The Supreme Court is currently considering two cases challenging Texas' near-total abortion ban.

  • As soon as the law was enacted, clinics in other states — such as Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico — started receiving calls from Texans looking to end their pregnancies, even as some struggled to support patients from their own states, per The 19th.
  • Women have been driving for hours to access reproductive health care. Some traveled for four hours, about 70 miles one-way, to reach an abortion clinic in Louisiana, AP reported.

Go deeper: What abortion access would look like if Roe v. Wade is overturned

Methodology: To choose which states are "highly likely" to ban abortion, the Myers Abortion Facility used a report from the Center for Reproductive Rights. However, after reviewing legal predictions, Myers did not include Wisconsin or Pennsylvania.

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