Steve May 13, 2022

9 in 10 women in U.S. say distance limits access to abortion services, survey finds

A new survey indicates that access to abortion services in the United States is already limited, even before apparent efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade in the Supreme Court. Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Wikimedia Commons

May 13 (UPI) — Almost 90% of women in the United States say they live too far from the nearest abortion to clinic to access the procedure and other women’s healthcare services, according to the results of a survey published Friday found.

Among nearly 900 respondents from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., 89% cited distance as a “barrier” to accessing abortion services, the data published Friday by JAMA Network Open showed.

Up to 80% of respondents said they had to set aside funds to cover travel expenses in order to obtain abortion services, the researchers said.

“Abortion care is healthcare [and] abortion care, like all pregnancy-related care, is often out of reach for many people living in rural parts of the country,” Ushma Upadhyay, a co-author of the study, told UPI in an email.

“And there is a great need to ensure that all pregnant people can access safe pregnancy-related healthcare regardless of the state they live in,” said Upadhyay, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California-San Francisco.

Access to abortion services nationally is affected by laws in many states that limit the number of clinics that can offer the procedure and place restrictions on when the controversial procedure can be performed.

Given that it appears that the conservative-majority Supreme Court appears poised to strike down Roe vs. Wade — the case that effectively legalized abortion in the United States — in the near future, access could be even more limited, according to Upadhyay.

On Wednesday, the Senate failed to pass a proposal to safeguard legalized abortion nationwide by enshrining the practice in federal law.

As of 2017, nearly 90% of counties in the United States did not have a clinic that offered abortion services, a recent report found.

For this study, Upadhyay and her colleagues surveyed 856 pregnant people who were considering undergoing an abortion.

Among the respondents, 27% lived within 5 miles of a clinic that offered abortion services, while 44% lived within 24 miles of a facility, the data showed.

Just under 10% of the respondents lived 25 to 49 miles from a clinic, while 19% lived 50 miles or more from the nearest facility, the researchers said.

Of those who lived 25 to 49 miles from the nearest clinic, 81% said they needed to set aside funds for travel expenses to receive care, according to the researchers.

Among respondents who lived 50 miles or more from the nearest facility, 76% indicated they needed to set aside funds for travel expenses to receive care, the data showed.

“We hope our research demonstrates to policymakers the potential impact of banning abortion,” Upadhyay said.

“A state-level abortion ban will push some people into having abortions later in pregnancy and force others to carry unwanted pregnancies to term — this will have dire consequences for individuals and their families,” she said.

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