The country where a woman would have to travel 600 miles to have an abortion

Imagine this: You’re a pregnant single mom in Louisiana, where the state banned abortion just as the US Supreme Court overturned the situation. Roe v Wade. Every state around — Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Mississippi — bans abortion. If you’re like most people in Louisiana, your nearest clinic will be at least a 10-hour drive away, in Illinois. You will need to pay for fuel, accommodation, and of course, your abortion, which insurance won’t cover. You will have to take time off work. You will have to take care of the babysitting. If you’re like the majority of people seeking abortions in Louisiana, you’re living below the poverty line.

Here’s the reality of what access to abortion will look like for thousands of people in Louisiana if the Supreme Court passes the draft decision to overturn. Roe v Wade. According to data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, 18 states have laws banning abortions immediately if Roe is overturned, and another four have six-week bans expected to go into effect. Four others have expressed their desire to ban abortion altogether.

In practice, this means that less than half of the states would maintain legal abortion rights if Roe were to fall. And residents of Louisiana, according to Guttmacher, will be hardest hit.

“The women we see, they don’t have the means to catch a flight anywhere,” said Kathaleen Pittman, clinic administrator at Hope Medical Group For Women, based in Shreveport. “Most of them won’t be able to travel, they won’t be able to make that trip. They will be forced to continue the pregnancy.”

About 10,000 women have abortions in Louisiana each year. The state has banned abortions after 20 weeks, telemedicine for medical abortions, and public funding for life-or-death abortions. It also requires abortion providers to register as ambulatory surgery centers — a tough requirement that research shows doesn’t improve outcomes. The state has previously tried to require abortion providers to guarantee admission privileges at local hospitals — a restriction that would likely close every clinic in the state — until The Supreme Court quashed that last year.

Partly for this reason, the number of abortion providers in Louisiana has steadily decreased, from five in 2014 to three now. (Meanwhile, the maternal mortality rate in the state increased 28% from 2016 to 2018.) It’s a trend seen across the country: The number of abortion clinics nationwide has steadily declined. at least since 2010. As of 2014, according to a study by Guttmacher, one in five women had to travel more than 40 miles to get to the nearest abortion provider. For women in rural South Dakota, the trip is more than 300 miles. If Roe falls, abortion seekers in Louisiana will be an average of 666 miles from their nearest clinic — the furthest in the country.

The combination of clinic closures and new state restrictions has put a strain on remaining providers. Pittman said her clinic has a waiting list of up to 300 people – largely due to the large influx of patients fleeing Texas’ recent six-week ban. Waiting times are pushing patients further and further into pregnancy, making the process more complicated and expensive than it otherwise would be. Pittman said the number of second-quarter abortions the clinic performed in the first three months of this year was twice as high as the year before. “And that’s due to the delay,” she added, “so you can imagine how the additional delay would affect these people.”

If Louisiana bans abortion, the situation will only get worse. All the states around either have Roe pre-activation or ban laws on the books, so patients will likely be pushed to Illinois, Kansas, and North Carolina. In Kansas, patients were asked to receive counseling to encourage them to have an abortion and wait 24 hours before the procedure. In North Carolina, the waiting time is 72 hours – meaning that even in the best cases, an abortion will require at least three days away from home.

More than 70% of the abortion patients in Louisiana in 2015 were women of color, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the majority were poor. (Overall, Louisiana has the third highest poverty rate in the nation.) Public insurance programs such as Medicaid cannot abort abortions except in cases of danger to life, rape or incest; nor programs offered under the state’s Affordable Care Act are not exchangeable. Even private insurance plans require participants to purchase a special driver if they want to be covered for an abortion.

Combine that with the cost of fuel, accommodation, childcare, and the days off work needed to get out of the states, and abortion is not only out of reach for many in Louisiana but also cannot pay.

Michelle Erenberg, executive director of abortion advocacy group Lift LA, said she heard from a patient who was 16 weeks old and wanted an abortion. Louisiana bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Erenberg said, but because of the clinic’s delay, Erenberg said, the woman won’t be able to see her in time. Erenberg connected her to a local abortion fund that could help her pay for a trip to nearby New Mexico, where there are no such restrictions.

Erenberg is optimistic that the abortion fund can help the woman. But if Roe falls, she doesn’t know how long that will last.

“It’s a good thing for a few hundred people in a state,” she said. “But when you look at half the country and millions and millions of people … it’s scary.”

Ahead of the Supreme Court’s draft decision, Erenberg said, activists need to focus on strengthening support networks like these. She also stressed the need to increase access to contraceptives and legislation to regulate self-administered abortion. “We cannot live in a world where people will go to jail or not go to the hospital if they have pregnancy complications because they are afraid of being caught,” she said.

Pittman, meanwhile, says she’s too busy dealing with her clinic’s backlog of patients to figure out what happens next.

“I am focusing on these women, because they are the ones who need me,” she said.

“I really wish I could have gone deeper,” she added. “But right now I’m tired and I’m angry.” The country where a woman would have to travel 600 miles to have an abortion


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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