Jul 21, 2022 - Health

Nearly 1 in 10 people traveled out-of-state to get an abortion in 2020, report finds

Change in number of people traveling out of state for abortions
Data: Guttmacher institute; Map: Baidi Wang/Axios

Almost 10% of abortions in the U.S. in 2020 were obtained by people who traveled out-of-state, and researchers say it's likely that the number will increase as more states ban or restrict access following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The big picture: Researchers from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that support abortion rights, found that the number of people leaving their home states to access abortion has been steadily increasing, from 6% in 2011 to 9% in 2020.

  • The increase corresponded with the enactment of tighter restrictions on the procedure in some states, even before Roe's demise.

State of play: In the 29 states that Guttmacher characterizes as being "hostile" to abortion in 2020, the proportion of residents traveling across state lines to access care increased from 9% in 2011 to 15% in 2020.

Zoom in: Missouri, which now has a near-total abortion ban in place, saw a dramatic increase: In 2020, 99% of residents traveled elsewhere for abortions, compared to 86% in 2019 and 54% in 2011.

  • In South Dakota, another state that also bans nearly all abortions, 84% of residents getting abortion went out-of-state, compared to 55% in 2019 and 40% in 2011.
  • Wyoming, which has a trigger ban that has yet to take place, saw a slight decrease: 88% of residents left the state to get an abortion in 2020, compared to 90% in 2019.
    • However, most Wyoming residents looking to access abortion have been going elsewhere over the years: in 2011, 89% traveled out-of-state; 89% in 2014; and 82% in 2017.

The other side: States that allow abortion access generally didn't see residents border-hop.

  • In California, less than 1% left the state to access abortion in 2020. In fact, Guttmacher found that this was a trend in previous years.
  • In New York, 1% of people getting abortions left the state to do so in 2020, the same percentage as in years before.
  • In Vermont, the number decreased from 11% in 2019 to 7% in 2020.

Worth noting: The data is from 2020 — before Roe was overturned and before Texas became the first state to ban abortion at six weeks and Oklahoma, copying Texas' ban, became the first to ban nearly all abortions.

  • While only 8% of people left Texas for an abortion in 2020, the number of traveling to neighboring states between September 2021 and December 2021 following enactment of the six-week ban increased to nearly 5,600, compared to just over 500 in the comparable period the prior year.

Between the lines: Most first-trimester abortions cost nearly $600. Additionally, patients need to consider the costs of travel, lodging, food and other services that could cost potentially hundreds of dollars more.

  • Unlike 2020, more states banning access are geographically clustered, meaning people seeking the procedure will have to travel farther. "That really could put abortion care out of reach because of the financial difficulties and logistical difficulties that they're going to have to face," said Isaac Maddow-Zimet, senior research associate at Guttmacher.

What we're watching: Maddow-Zimet told Axios that Guttmacher relies on clinics and patients to make estimates on out-of-state abortions, but as more bans and restrictions are put in place, it's likely that future data will get "less accurate."

  • "It's possible that folks will be less likely to be willing to disclose their state of residence if they're coming from a state where abortion is illegal or extremely restricted," Maddow-Zimet added, noting that clinics might be "more reluctant" to collect that information in fear of "legal liability for clients."
  • "Data collection in general will get more and more challenging for all abortion researchers in the U.S."
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