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Being forced to travel for abortion care comes with emotional costs, study finds

In the United States, where nearly a third of people can’t afford to cover a $400 emergency cost, traveling out of state for an abortion is an extreme financial burden. Research has extensively examined these financial and logistical costs, but not the emotional costs of travel. A new study sought to examine people’s emotional experience while traveling for abortion care.

New state bans and gestational duration restrictions have followed the overturning of the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S., resulting in more people traveling out of their home state to receive care. This travel comes with costs. New findings, drawn from extensive interviews with people who had to travel for abortion care because of their gestation even before Dobbs, illustrate the emotional costs of abortion travel—including distress, stress, anxiety, and shame.

These negative emotions were caused by:

Having to explain one’s travel, which could include disclosing the abortion or having to lie to loved ones to protect one’s privacy
Being in an unfamiliar place and away from usual networks of support
Legal restriction making abortion seekers feel cast out by their own community

Study Design 

The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 30 women who had to travel across state borders in the United States for abortion care because of their gestation. We analyzed findings thematically.


This study both documents the emotional cost of forced abortion travel and explores some of the circumstances behind them, costs that more abortion seekers will surely face now that Roe has been overturned. These findings add to emerging literature on how laws and other structures produce abortion stigma and burdens. The research shows travel does have emotional costs for some patients, especially when they have no choice but to travel in order to obtain the care they need. In the absence of policy change, health professionals can support patients traveling long distances by offering compassionate and non-judgmental care.

One participant described the emotional burden of going to an unfamiliar place:

“It was very stressful having to plan that trip and get there and be away from everyone and everything I knew.”

Another said, in response to facing gestational limits in her home state after learning her fetus had a serious health issue:

“It's forcing shame and stigma on you during what is already the worst moment of your life.”

The article, Exploring the emotional costs of abortion travel in the United States due to legal restriction, is available in Contraception.