May 5, 2022 - News

Pennsylvania could see flood of out-of-state abortion patients

Illustration of a woman carrying an oversized gavel on her back.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Pennsylvania will likely see an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortions here if Roe v. Wade is overturned, experts and advocates warn.

The big picture: Abortion will remain legal in the state for the immediate future if the ruling is reversed. But the subsequent patchwork of state laws that would then govern the procedure could drive people seeking abortions to travel to Pennsylvania.

State of play: More than 93% of the roughly 32,000 abortions performed in Pennsylvania in 2020 involved residents, around 37% of which lived in Philadelphia County, according to the latest state report.

  • Nearly half of all abortions in the state in 2020 involved white patients (14,813). Black patients made up the second-largest group (14,177), and Hispanic patients accounted for 3,479.
  • The Guttmacher Institute estimates a 1,169% increase in women ages 15-49 whose nearest abortion provider would be in Pennsylvania if abortion is outlawed in nearby states like Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Zoom in: Elicia Gonzales, the executive director of the Abortion Liberation Fund of Pennsylvania, told Axios she expects a deluge of patients seeking abortion care from neighboring states that don't have similar protections.

  • Gonzales warns it could further strain existing providers.

Last year, her organization provided financial support to help 3,200 people pay for abortions, but she said the need was closer to 7,000.

  • Gonzales told Axios the overwhelming majority of those who call seeking support are Black and brown individuals.
  • "While we embrace and will do everything in our power to ensure that people get the care they need, we're nervous because we already weren't reaching that need," she said.

Between the lines: Low-income individuals and people of color will be disproportionately impacted by a lack of safe and accessible abortion care, experts warn.

  • Many, who may already have limited access to health care, may be unable to afford to travel long distances to receive the procedure or to take off work, according to Amal Bass, the director of policy and advocacy at the Women's Law Project.
  • Plus: Pennsylvania's existing abortion restrictions — like state-mandated counseling, a 24-hour waiting period and no Medicaid coverage — can already make the procedure too costly for many.

What they're saying: "We don't make it easy for people," Bass said. "They have to face a choice where they have to continue pregnancies against their will simply because they don't have the resources to navigate this obstacle course."

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