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Abortion restrictions will push many American women across state lines
If Roe v Wade is overturned, at least 21 states could ban all or nearly all abortions
Nov 1st 2021
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Editor’s note: On May 2nd a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court revealed that a majority of its justices would currently vote to overturn Roe v Wade. The next day the court said that the memo, although authentic, did not represent the final position of any member.

Sam dickman, a doctor who performs abortions in Texas, says his job these days has morphed into that of a “dystopian travel agent”. Since his state imposed a near-total ban on the procedure in September, he has advised over 100 women about how to get one in other states. Many Texan women have sought care in neighbouring Louisiana or Oklahoma, or even further afield. Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Denver, Colorado, treated 31 Texan women in September, up from five in August. Some drove for 16 hours one way to get an abortion, says Kristina Tocce, the organisation’s regional medical director.

On November 1st the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in legal challenges to Texas’s ban, which, at about six weeks, is the most restrictive in America. The arguments will address procedural questions related to the ban’s enforcement mechanism—such as whether private citizens may sue those who assist in the provision of an abortion. A month later the court will consider a separate law in Mississippi that prohibits terminations after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state of Mississippi has asked the court to overturn or weaken Roe v Wade, its precedent from 1973 that legalised abortions until around 22 weeks.

Should that happen, conservative states hostile to abortion will probably make it harder to get one, compelling women to travel to more permissive places—much as Texan women are now doing. The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice think-tank, modelled the distance women would have to drive under three such hypothetical scenarios: if anti-abortion states banned the procedure totally (or nearly totally, such as a six-week ban similar to Texas’s law), if they banned them after 15 weeks (less than 8% of abortions happen after this point) and if they banned them after 20 weeks.

The institute classes 26 states as anti-abortion. Of those 21 have total or near-total bans that will kick in automatically or by quick state action if Roe is overturned. The other five have recently enacted new restrictions of various sorts and are home to voters whose political leanings suggest the legislature would probably impose more. Just over 303,000 abortions were performed in those states in 2017, 35% of the total nationwide.

The analysis finds that women in anti-abortion states would for the most part have to travel hundreds of miles farther to find an abortion clinic than they currently do. The distances would be greatest for women in clusters of restrictive states in the South, the Midwest and the Plains. More liberal states, such as Illinois and California, would see an influx of abortion-seekers, many of them arriving at a later stage in their pregnancies.

Take Louisiana, from which women would face the farthest journey in the hypothetical scenarios. The state has three abortion clinics. On average, a woman in Louisiana now has to drive 37 miles (60km) each way for a termination (and she must make the journey twice: once for state-mandated counselling, and again for the procedure, more than 24 hours later). If Louisiana and its similarly restrictive neighbours were to enact a ban on abortion, a woman there would have to travel 666 miles, to Illinois, Kansas or North Carolina.

Such trips are costly and time-consuming. Women need to arrange transport, time off work and child care if they already have children—plus pay for the actual abortion. For many those burdens could become insurmountable. ■



萨姆-迪克曼(Sam dickman)是一名在德克萨斯州进行堕胎手术的医生,他说他这些天的工作已经演变成了 "乌托邦式的旅行社"。自从他所在的州在9月几乎完全禁止堕胎以来,他已经向100多名妇女建议如何在其他州进行堕胎。许多德克萨斯州的妇女在邻近的路易斯安那州或俄克拉荷马州,甚至更远的地方寻求治疗。科罗拉多州丹佛市的计划生育诊所在9月份治疗了31名德克萨斯妇女,比8月份的5名有所增加。该组织的区域医疗主管克里斯蒂娜-托切说,有些人单程开车16小时来做堕胎。


如果发生这种情况,敌视堕胎的保守州可能会使堕胎变得更加困难,迫使妇女前往更加宽松的地方--就像德克萨斯州妇女现在所做的那样。古特马赫研究所(Guttmacher Institute)是一个支持选择的智囊团,它模拟了在三种假设情况下妇女必须驾驶的距离:如果反堕胎州完全禁止堕胎(或几乎完全禁止,如类似于德克萨斯州法律的六周禁令),如果他们在15周后禁止堕胎(只有不到8%的堕胎发生在这一点上),如果他们在20周后禁止。




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