A Planned Parenthood clinic in Illinois near the Missouri border with an orange and blue gradient
Abortion rights demonstrators outside the US Supreme Court on June 24, 2022. Photographer: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg

Americans in 26 States Will Have to Travel 552 Miles For Abortions

Now that the US Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, millions of Americans will soon find themselves in abortion deserts, meaning they will have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to access the medical procedure. Roughly 33 million women of child-bearing age live in states with existing or expected abortion bans.

Source: Guttmacher Institute

More than a quarter of the country's 790 abortion clinics are estimated to close, according to a study released this month by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health. At least 22 US states have laws on the books that will now outlaw abortion in all or most cases, and four others have indicated they will likely move in a similar direction.

Clinics at Risk of Closure Post-Roe

Abortion facility status now that the landmark decision has been overturned

Source: Guttmacher Institute

People living in those places will have to travel an average of 276 miles each way to access the procedure in parts of the country where abortion remains legal, according to Bloomberg News calculations based on data from the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health researcher. That’s, on average, six times farther than before.

Abortion will remain legal in at least sixteen states and the District of Columbia. What’s unclear is whether clinics there will be able to absorb the volume from their neighbors.

Travel Surge

Increase in number of women ages 15–49 whose nearest abortion provider would be in these states

Source: Guttmacher Institute

Take Illinois, for example. With total bans in 26 states, it will see an over 8,000% increase in women—as many as 8.9 million—whose closest abortion provider would shift to the state, according to a 2021 analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. California, which has banded together with Oregon and Washington to create a “safe haven” for abortion care, could see a nearly 3,000% increase in patients.

The number of stand-alone abortion clinics have been on the decline in the last decade, according to Abortion Care Network, a national network of independent providers. As of November, there were 358 stand-alone clinics, down from 510 ten years ago.

Funds that help coordinate logistics and pay for care were already stretched thin before the Supreme Court decision. They will be even more so, now that the need for travel has jumped exponentially—if they can operate at all. The Texas Equal Access Fund and Lilith Fund are pausing their operations while they figure out the legal landscape. It’s unclear if the ruling or new state laws allow them to help people get out-of-state care.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a concurring opinion that states outlawing the procedure may not bar residents from traveling to other states to terminate their pregnancies.

“We anticipate a massive surge in requests for travel, food, lodging and child care support as more abortion seekers than ever before will now be forced to travel long distances to access essential health care,” Odile Schalit, executive director of the Brigid Alliance, which coordinates logistics for abortion patients nationwide, said in a statement. “The truth is, it will be impossible to help everyone who deserves our support—and some people will be forced to carry out unsafe pregnancies.”

Nicole Martin, a co-founder and the sex educator of Indigenous Women Rising, an abortion fund that helps Indigenous and Native people seeking care, said the group is currently providing an average of $1,500 per person seeking help, largely due to travel and time-related costs.

Other complications can arise as they help people book hotels or Ubers, said Martin.

“The hotels don't want to work with us because we have to physically be there to use the card,” Martin said. “It’s little things that add up.”

With assistance from Ella Ceron and Rachael Dottle
Edited by Rebecca Greenfield and Danielle Balbi

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