Abortions are increasing in states where they are still legal, especially in the states bordering those no longer providing abortion care.
According to the new analysis by The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization focused on reproductive health, most of these increases are likely attributable to people traveling from the states that enacted abortion bans.
As of June 2023, 13 states had total abortion bans in effect, and legal uncertainty had forced providers to stop offering care in Wisconsin. In 2020, more than 113,000 abortions, representing about 12% of all U.S. pregnancy terminations that year, were provided in these states.
Since the bans came into force, many people sought abortion care out of state. However, traveling often entails significant financial, logistical, and emotional hardship. Others chose to self-manage their abortion outside the formal health care system, for example, by ordering abortion pills online.
Abortions increased nationally by 8% between 2017 and 2020, and data suggests the upward trend continued into 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutionally protected right to access abortion.
The new analysis, Monthly Abortion Provision Study, reveals that in most states that are in close proximity to the states where abortion care is no longer available, monthly abortions are increasing more sharply than would likely be explained by a continuation of earlier trends.
The number of abortions is also rising in states that enacted protective measures, which can also reflect people traveling from other states to receive abortion care. For example, Colorado, one of these states with protections, saw abortions increase by 89% compared to the same period in 2020.
Illinois and New Mexico, states that enacted measures to protect abortions, saw an increase in abortions by 69% and 220%, respectively. By comparison, the increase observed between 2017 and 2020 was 25% for Illinois and 27% for New Mexico.
In South Carolina, which borders Georgia, where abortion is banned after around 6 weeks of pregnancy, the number of abortions increased by 124% compared to a 4% increase observed between 2017 and 2020.
However, abortion care in South Carolina will now be severely limited by a six-week abortion ban that went into effect on August 23, 2023.
The analysis authors predict that anti-abortion states will escalate their attempts to interfere with out-of-state travel for abortion. With more states banning or severely restricting abortion, larger regional clusters of states with bans emerge. And this increases the likelihood that people will have to cross multiple state lines to get abortion care.
Despite new restrictions being imposed, abortions are increasing in the U.S., and public support for better access to abortion care remains strong. The majority (62%) of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a survey by Pew Research Center from July. Some 57% of American adults disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, including 43% who strongly disapprove.
- The Guttmacher Institute. New State Abortion Data Indicate Widespread Travel for Care.
- Pew Research Center. Majority of Public Disapproves of Supreme Court’s Decision To Overturn Roe v. Wade.