27 cities in the US are “abortion deserts"

27 US cities are abortion deserts
Even though one in four US women will have an abortion by the age of 45, this common medical procedure has become harder to get over the last decade. People who don’t know where to go for abortion services may look for information on the internet, and online searching for abortion information appears to be more common in states with restrictive abortion laws.

ANSIRH conducted a first-of-its-kind study that focused on online searches to replicate the experience of people searching for information about where to find abortion care. The team searched for clinics in cities with a population of 100,000 or more and gathered information on what type of abortion services were available.

The team found 27 states in the US that qualify as “abortion deserts”—cities where people have to travel 100 miles or more to reach an abortion clinic. There are “abortion deserts” in every region of the country except the Northeast. Six states (Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia) have only one abortion facility.

The study also found that the availability of specific abortion services varies widely by region. While most abortion facilities provide both medication and aspiration or surgical abortion, nearly half of facilities in the Northeast and West provide only medication abortion.

Having to travel long distances for abortion care can disproportionately impact low-income women and potentially push women to seek abortion at later gestations when care is even less available. Travel burdens may exist in addition to other restrictions on abortion in the state, including waiting periods and gestational limits, which can exacerbate inequities in access to abortion care. While attempts to pass more restrictive laws could put additional clinics in jeopardy, there are also models for expanding access. For instance, Maine had the lowest ratio of women of reproductive age per facility, which was likely the result of an expansion of medication abortion through telemedicine programs.