Florida’s Abortion Ban Will Reach Well Beyond Florida

August 2021

Miles to nearest clinic offering abortions after 6 weeks

Source: Caitlin Myers, Middlebury College

As of Wednesday, Florida has banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. It will have far-reaching effects.

In 2021, abortion was legal in every state, and the average American woman lived less than 25 miles from a clinic.

But after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, some states banned all or most abortions, including many in the South.

Florida, North Carolina and Virginia were the only states in the South offering abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. For 6.4 million women, the nearest clinic was in Florida.

Now, that option is gone. Women in several states will need to travel hundreds of miles farther to reach a clinic.

It is the biggest change to abortion access since the period immediately after the reversal of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

“This is a seismic event for everyone in the ecosystem,” said Jenny Black, the chief executive of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which operates in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. “It is impossible to overstate the impact of this ban on abortion access in the whole Southeast, probably all up the Eastern Seaboard.”

Florida, unlike much of the South, has long had many abortion clinics — more than 50, spread throughout the state. The average Florida woman lives less than 20 miles from one. Last year, clinics in Florida provided around 86,000 abortions, behind only California, New York and Illinois, according to estimates from the Guttmacher Institute.

Of those, more than 9,000 were for patients who came from other states, part of an influx after many Southern states banned or severely restricted abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

With few exceptions, women across the South who are beyond six weeks of pregnancy — before many women know they’re pregnant — will now have to travel much farther to a clinic for an abortion. Also, for around a decade, Florida has required two appointments 24 hours apart to get an abortion, making it harder to receive one before the six-week mark. In other states, six-week bans have decreased abortions by about half.

“We’re hopeful that not only will the numbers in Florida for abortions take a deep nosedive, but also it does have national implications,” said Andrew Shirvell, the founder and executive director of Florida Voice for the Unborn, a group that lobbied the Legislature for the ban. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has said he does not want the state to remain an “abortion tourism destination.”

Despite bans in 14 states, and restrictions in several others, the number of legal abortions nationwide is about the same as before Roe was overturned. Florida’s new ban could change that, researchers said — an illustration of how regional abortion access has become. Shutting down abortion access in one linchpin state, Florida, could reduce the number of abortions across the entire region, while in swaths of the rest of the country, abortion has remained accessible, and in some places has even become more so.

The maps above show how the distances to the nearest clinic have increased for women in the South who are more than six weeks pregnant, based on data from Caitlin Myers, a professor of economics at Middlebury College, who has been measuring the effects of abortion bans for years.

Women in Miami who are beyond six weeks will now need to travel more than 700 miles to reach the nearest clinics — in Charlotte, N.C., where state law requires two visits spread over three days. The current wait time there is a week or more to get an appointment, according to a recent survey of clinics led by Professor Myers. Otherwise, women would need to travel farther, to clinics in Virginia or Washington, D.C.

Driving distances would also increase by more than 100 miles for women in parts of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Percent of women in the South living less than 100 miles from a clinic offering abortions after 6 weeks

Percent of women in the South living more than 300 miles from a clinic offering abortions after 6 weeks

Includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Measurements are for women of reproductive age.

Source: Caitlin Myers, Middlebury College

“This is going to be the biggest change to abortion access since Dobbs, and the impact is clear: More people are going to have to travel further distances if they have the financial resources to do so, and many people will be forced to remain pregnant,” said Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, executive director of Florida Access Network, which helps women in Florida pay for abortions and travel to clinics.

Clinic operators in North Carolina and Virginia say they are trying to expand capacity, but are already struggling to meet demand. Several clinics in those states are already reporting waits of two weeks for appointments, according to Professor Myers’s survey and interviews with clinic staffers.

Decades of research show that, as driving distances to abortion clinics increase, fewer women obtain abortions. The typical seeker of an abortion is poor, and often struggles to arrange transportation, time off from work, housing and child care to travel long distances.

Driving Distances Now

Miles to nearest clinic offering abortions after 6 weeks

Source: Caitlin Myers, Middlebury College

Yet there is uncertainty about the precise long-term effects of the ban. The same day the Florida Supreme Court allowed the six-week limit to go into effect, it also allowed a constitutional amendment on abortion to appear on the November ballot. If the amendment earns the support of 60 percent of voters, it will reverse the ban and protect abortion rights until about 24 weeks.

And in recent months, more women have been ordering abortion pills through telemedicine. This includes women in states with bans, who order from clinicians in states with laws that shield them from out-of-state prosecution.

Such abortions could become more common in the South. But some women are unaware of the option or uncomfortable managing an abortion without a nearby medical provider. Others are too far along in their pregnancies for the option — abortion pills are recommended by the Food and Drug Administration only during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

As a result, telemedicine is unlikely to replace all the abortions currently occurring in Florida. “I don’t think it means that everybody just perfectly substitutes it for traveling to a brick and mortar facility and seeing a provider in person,” Professor Myers said.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *