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Abortion rate halves if women have to go an extra 100 miles

20 January 2017


Whole Women's Health founder Amy Hagstrom Miller protested having to conform abortion clinics to hospital standards. Image: Darren Abate/Reuters.

A study investigating the effects of a Texas law has found that if abortion clinics close and women have to travel further to obtain one, abortion rates decline.

The study, published online on Thursday 19 January in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined the impact of House Bill 2 (HB2), a 2013 Texas law that forced more than half of the state’s clinics to close. The bill required abortion facilities to meet hospital-like building standards, as well as stipulating that doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The US Supreme court ruled last June that the law was unconstitutional, but it was on the books for three years. (This release from Texas Alliance for Life gives some useful background.)

Before and after HB2

The study, by four researchers with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project of the University of Texas in Austin (which supports 'reproductive rights') compares the number of abortions obtained by local women in 2012 to 2014, the year after HB2 took effect. In 56 counties, most of them concentrated in west Texas, the distance to the nearest abortion clinic increased by a hundred miles or more.

In these places, data from the Texas Department of State Health Services reveals that the number of women receiving clinic performed-abortions halved. In the 33 counties where the distance increased from 50 to 99 miles, the number of abortions fell by almost 36%. In the 55 counties where the distance to the nearest facility increased by up to 24 miles, the decrease was 12.7%. Where there was no change in distance, the number of abortions fell by less than 2%.

Undue burden?

"Our study gives further insight into the ways that the clinic closures due to Texas's restrictive law resulted in an undue burden on women seeking access to abortion care in Texas, said Dr Daniel Grossman, one of the TxPEP researchers and an OB-GYN at the University of California, San Francisco. It corroborates the findings of our previous qualitative research, where we heard from women that the long distances to the nearest clinic created significant financial and logistical barriers to care."

The news comes as another study found that abortion levels are at their lowest since Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion in 1973.

Abortion providers willing to drop standards of care to push abortion

SPUC Communications officer Alithea Williams commented on the story, saying: "It's interesting to see from this study that having that little bit more time to think about their decision, which having to travel slightly further gives, led to so many women choosing not to go ahead. Despite the fear-mongering of the researchers, 100 miles is not a huge distance to travel, especially in a country the size of America, so it's doubtful that women who were set on having an abortion were prevented by distance. No one wants to have an abortion, and, given the chance, many don't.

"The fact that abortion providers are reluctant to confirm to hospital standards when carrying out surgery also speaks volumes- they are willing to drop levels of care in order to push abortion on every doorstep. The lack of care for the dignity of human beings shown in attitudes to unborn children permeates the entire way abortion providers work."

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Comments (1)
  • Alan Thorne

    20 January 2017, 6:53pm

    Interesting article. How will this relate to our efforts in the UK to reduce the abortion rate?

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