A third of American women of reproductive age now face excessive travel times to obtain an abortion, according to a new geospatial analysis by researchers in San Francisco and Boston that is one of the first to model the effects of the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs v. Jackson decision.
Twice as many women must now travel more than an hour to reach an abortion provider. That amount of time is double the U.S. government benchmark for reasonable access to primary care. Previous research has shown that greater distances delay, or thwart outright, needed care.
Residents of the South faced the biggest jump in travel times, as an entire bloc of states ceased to provide abortion services. Women in Texas and Louisiana went from median travel times of roughly 15 minutes to obtain an abortion before the court decision to trips more than six hours long after it, according to the study. In Texas, the average increase was eight hours.
In states with total or six-week abortion bans, travel times increased, on average, more than 4 hours.
“We need to understand the diminished access to this essential health service in order to better understand what resources we need to invest to regain that access. We were startled to see that populations of major metropolitan areas now have to travel several hours for care,” said Yulin Hswen, ScD, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UC San Francisco, and senior author of the study that appears Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022 in JAMA.
Hswen worked with Ushma Upadhyay, PhD, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science affiliated with UCSF’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), and with a Boston area research team including John Brownstein, PhD, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Ben Rader, a research fellow from Boston University.
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