Researchers sought to investigate changes in estimated travel time to the nearest abortion facility before and after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. They found that it was significantly greater in the post-Dobbs period.
Following the Dobbs decision, complete or partial bans on abortion were enacted in more than 15 U.S. states. Through a repeated cross-sectional spatial analysis, researchers observed that the average travel time to abortion facilities in the U.S. was significantly greater in the post-Dobbs period after accounting for the closure of abortion facilities in these states.
Abortion facility locations were extracted from ANSIRH’s Abortion Facilities Database. A repeated cross-sectional geographic analysis was conducted to estimate travel time from each census tract in the contiguous U.S. to the nearest abortion facility. The analysis compared 2 cross-sections: pre-Dobbs (January-December 2021) and post-Dobbs (September 2022) periods. Sociodemographics and the number of females of reproductive age (15-44 years) living more than 60 minutes from abortion care were compared in each period. A 60-minute threshold to care is consistent with government standards for access to specialty care and a 2022 study that showed that individuals living more than 50 miles from an abortion facility were more likely to still be seeking an abortion on a 4-week follow-up than those who lived closer to an abortion facility. Alaska and Hawaii were excluded from all calculations due to the unique challenges of spatial access in these states (e.g. greater reliance on air travel).
This research not only reveals where people lost access to essential health care post-Dobbs, but also provides direct evidence showing which communities are being disproportionately affected by SCOTUS action, specifically Black and Indigenous people.
Author Ushma Upadhyay, PhD, comments:
“It’s cost prohibitive to take such long trips. In addition to paying for the abortion, people have to take time off from work, pay for gas, pay for lodging, and pay for childcare – because most people needing abortions are already parents.”
The article, Estimated Travel Time and Spatial Access to Abortion Facilities in the US Before and After the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Decision, is available in JAMA.