One-third of abortion patients travel more than 25 miles to get the procedure

That’s according to a new Guttmacher Institute analysis.

The survey, of data from 2008, found that 67 percent of abortion patients traveled less than 25 miles, 16 percent traveled 25–49 miles, 11 percent traveled 50–100 miles and 6 percent traveled more than 100 miles. The average distance traveled was 30 miles. Unsurprisingly, those seeking second-trimester abortions–which are offered by  two-thirds of U.S. abortion providers–often ended up going farther.

To an urbanite like me, those seem like ridiculously long distances to travel. But, as Guttmacher explains, folks who live in rural areas often have to travel greater distances for many services–not just abortion. That’s why efforts to expand telemedicine health care–including abortion services–could be a real game-changer for rural dwellers–particularly low-income folks who don’t have access to a car. And that’s likely why anti-choicers have been so quick to launch a coordinated attack on the new technology.

But it’s not just the geography of abortion access that leads to long travel times. The survey found that people who lived in a state with a 24-hour waiting period were more than twice as likely to travel greater distances as those in states with no waiting period requirement. And this survey doesn’t even include folks who weren’t able to get an abortion at all due to these barriers. In short, anti-choice laws do what they’re intended to do: make it more difficult for people to get the reproductive health care they need.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • Tanya Nguyen

    It’s strange to hear people worry over 25 miles. I live in colorado. Not high mountains, or flat plains but Denver Metro.

    Yet I commute 25 miles to work, from the suburbs to Downtown. I routinly drive 25 miles to go to new resturants. Out here, perhaps, distances just don’t mean the same thing. If it’s under an hour, it’s no big deal.

    That said, in Colorado, there are no clinics anywhere in the mountians – areas that are often shut down due to snow, months out of the year. the very eastern plains and southern colorado require 3 to 5 hour drives to get to major city events, from football games, to abortion clinics. It’s a full day trip, or usually, stayign the night in a cheep hotel. Luckily for this state, our rules are pretty liberal, and you don’t need 2 appointments or have to have outside counseling 24 hours of waiting, etc. So you can do it in one day.

    but it’s still a big deal.

    What I do not understand is why every doctor cannot prescribe medical abortions. it is JUST medication, not surgery. I do not understand why you cannot have tel med abortions. I’ve seen nurses act as the closest thing women will have to obgyn care; i’ve seen doctors diagnos flu and colds over a phone (and this was pre internet and vid chatting) cause that was the best you could do.

    We need to think of poor, rural women in our laws. for ALL medical needs, including abortion and birth control services.