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Just over a year after the United States Supreme Court ruled Roe vs. Wade, which eliminated federal protections against abortions, leaves nearly a quarter of women without access to an abortion facility within 90 minutes, putting their lives at risk.
And researchers predict that number could nearly double if additional abortion laws being considered in states are passed.
a study published in the journal Obstetrics and Genecology, one of the first to create more precise travel times using actual road and geographic data, shows that 23.6 percent of women of childbearing age, between 15 and 49 years old, travel within a radius of 90 minutesn does not have access to an abortion facility. -minute drive. Twenty-nine percent do not have access within a 60-minute drive, and 41.4 percent do not have access to a facility that offers abortions within a half-hour drive.
When combined with women at risk of losing access to an abortion facility due to potential new laws, these numbers rise to 43 percent within 90 minutes, 45.6 percent within 60 minutes and 53.5 percent within 30 minutes.
While previous studies of abortion access used only estimated distances to clinics, this study used isochrones, lines on maps that represent an area accessible from a certain point within a certain time, and data from multiple government, state and local agencies to create travel times using actual roads, meaning this research has identified women’s real drivers.
Additionally, due to the ever-changing landscape of abortion rights in the US, researchers had to reanalyze their data three times as more bills were passed or challenged in court.
While previous studies of abortion access used only estimated distances to clinics, this study used isochrones, lines on maps that represent an area accessible from a point within a given time, and data from multiple government, state and local agencies to create travel times using actual roads, meaning this research has identified women’s real drivers
In June 2022, 49 years after Roe vs. Wade guaranteed the right to abortion, the decision was overturned in Dobbs vs. Jackson, which challenged the constitutionality of a 2018 state law in Mississippi that banned most abortions after the first 15 weeks of abortion. pregnancy. In the ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion.
After the ruling, 14 states made abortion illegal, meaning they banned the procedure entirely and enforced bans through civil and criminal penalties, including fines and prison sentences.
In Arkansas, where abortion is illegal, zero percent of women can access abortion clinics within 30, 60 or 90 minutes. The same goes for Louisiana and Mississippi, where abortion is also banned. Women in Oklahoma do not have access to clinics closer than 90 minutes, and none of those clinics are located in the state.
In South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, which have all banned the procedure and have no abortion clinics in the state, fewer than three percent of women can access a clinic within 30 minutes. In Texas, where performing, inducing or attempting an abortion is a second-degree felony, only three percent of women can access a clinic within 90 minutes.
Washington DC, where abortion is protected, has the most access to abortion clinics, with 100 percent of women able to access a clinic within 30, 60 and 90 minutes. In Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware, all states with abortion protections, 100 percent of women can access an abortion clinic within 60 to 90 minutes.
For the study, researchers from Washington State University, University of California, Davis and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill used publicly available data from the Planned Parenthood database, the National Abortion Foundation database, the Abortion Finder database and the Power to Decide database to identify the addresses of 750 abortion clinics in the US.
They used the 2020 census to determine the population of women between the ages of 15 and 49. To determine geography and distance, the team obtained road network information from OpenStreetMap and GeoFabrik. Researchers then used isochrones to determine distances.
Previous studies have also found that travel times to access abortion have increased since the Dobbs decision. In a separate study from 2022 that determined average travel times to abortion clinics, researchers found before the Dobbs decision, women traveled an average of 27.8 minutes to the nearest clinic. After the Dobbs decision, that average time increased to more than 100 minutes.
Additionally, before the 2022 decision, 14.6 percent of women had to travel at least 60 minutes, compared to 33.3 percent now.
People attend a rally about abortion rights at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022
However, access is “about more than laws,” says Dr. Dawn Kopp, vice chair of OBGYN at Washington State University, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and senior author of the recent study.
‘This study highlights that access to abortion is about more than just laws. It’s about more than the state you live in, because people are allowed to cross state lines for medical care. There are many more factors that play a role.
“This study adds to the stories patients and doctors have already shared by providing objective data on how widespread the difficulty is in accessing comprehensive reproductive health care in a post Roe v. Wade America.” Kopp said.
Abortion may be legal in a state, but there may be few facilities or qualified health care providers to perform abortions, or the facilities may not be located in accessible areas relative to where people live.
Conversely, a state may ban abortions, but some patients may be close enough to a state where they can travel across the border.
Regardless of why access is limited, the barrier to traveling to a clinic can have real health consequences. Additional research has found that in states with more abortion restrictions, maternal and neonatal mortality increases.
And lower-income women face even greater risks because of the money and time it takes to reach an abortion care center.
2022 data in Texas shows infant mortality rose by as much as a fifth in the year after the state passed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans.
In another studyresearchers at the University of Colorado Boulder analyzed state-specific abortion data from 2020 to better understand what an abortion ban would mean for maternal mortality. If abortions were completely banned in the US, there could be a 24 percent increase in expected maternal mortality nationwide. For black women, there could be a 39 percent increase.
Researchers determined their estimates based on 2020 statistics on state and national abortion incidence, birth incidence rates and updated maternal mortality statistics for all pregnancies.