Sep 12, 2022 - News

Influx of out-of-state patients causes abortion delays

Illustration of a red suitcase with a medical cross on the side
Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

A crush of Texans and other out-of-state patients at abortion clinics are causing backlogs in care and forcing some to have the procedure later in their pregnancies, when treatment is more intensive and costs are higher.

The big picture: It's a byproduct of more people traveling across state lines in the post-Roe landscape and testing reproductive health providers in states that don't have abortion bans, writes Axios' Oriana Gonzalez.

  • Experts believe that as clinics struggle with demand, the number of abortions performed after the 13th week of pregnancy — which is around the end of the first trimester — might increase.
  • The procedures can be harder to obtain, because "as pregnancy progresses, the number of people who are skilled to provide that care further goes down," Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told Axios.

By the numbers: About 93% of reported abortions in 2019 were performed at or before 13 weeks of pregnancy, 6% were conducted between 14 and 20 weeks and 1% were performed at or after 21 weeks, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • At an Illinois clinic, patients from states other than Missouri and Illinois have risen to 40% of cases, compared to 5% before the federal right to abortion was struck down.

Zoom in: Since September 2021, Texans seeking abortion care have had to leave the state if they're more than six weeks pregnant. The law prohibited the practice after embryonic cardiac activity can be detected — before many people know they are pregnant.

  • Since then, more than 400 abortion patients with a Texas zip code visited Planned Parenthood health centers in Kansas, compared to fewer than 10 abortion patients from September 2020 to June 2021, according to the organization.
  • Abortion patients with a Texas zip code more than doubled from 19% to 41% of the total number of abortion patients at Planned Parenthood health centers in New Mexico compared to the previous year.

Now, Texas' trigger law, which went into effect last month, makes it a felony to perform an abortion from the moment of fertilization.

In Colorado, Michael Belmonte, a Denver OB-GYN, told Axios that the clinic he works in had already been overwhelmed with out-of-state patients since Texas' six-week abortion ban took effect in 2021.

  • Wait times for the clinic are around two to three weeks. While Belmonte said it's "certainly possible" that could grow to five to six weeks with higher demand, the clinic has recruited additional providers and made other contingencies.
  • The clinic has seen more out-of-state patients who are further along in their second trimester with severe fetal conditions who are unable to access abortion care in their states.
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