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The long and winding road:
Distance traveled and crossing state lines for abortion services

Rachel Jones, Guttmacher Institute, 2012

Project abstract

The number of U.S. abortion providers has been declining since 1982, which means many women must travel substantial distances to access abortion services. A number of states have implemented restrictions such as mandated waiting periods and parental involvement laws, which may motivate some women to cross state lines; these regulations, and strategies to deal with them, may also increase the distance women have to travel to reach a provider.

We propose to combine national data from a nationally representative sample of abortion patients and a census of all U.S. abortion providers, both for 2008, to examine (1) how far women travel for abortion services, (2) the characteristics of women who travel longer distances and who cross state lines for this purpose, and (3) how distance traveled may be related to crossing state lines.

We develop several hypotheses predicting the ways that socioeconomic status, age, gestation and residing in a state with a waiting period will affect travel for abortion care. We also propose to assess how commonly U.S. abortion patients go to the clinics nearest to them and how this dynamic is related to distance and crossing state lines for abortion care.

Information from the proposed study will be used to inform public policy and, in particular, counter attempts to impose restrictions that could increase distances women have to travel, or the number of visits required, to obtain an abortion. Perhaps just as importantly, the findings will provide baseline information about issues related to travel that have already changed in recent years, as more states introduce restrictions around abortion services.

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