Travel times to obtain an abortion increase after the Dobbs decision | Tech US News

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November 8, 2022

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Many women face extreme travel times to get an abortion, researchers found in one of the first studies to assess the impact of the disease. Women’s Health Organization Dobbs v. Jackson decision

Benjamin Rader, MPH, from Boston Children’s Hospital’s computational epidemiology lab, and colleagues sought to understand changes in travel time to the nearest abortion facility after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer



PC1122Rader_Graphic_01_WEB
Data derived from: Rader B, et al. XAMA. 2022; doi:10.1001/jama.2022.20424.

The researchers used the most recent US Census data to assess how many women aged 15 to 44 lived in each census tract. Once a computer model divided the US into units of square kilometers, Rader and his colleagues assessed the average travel time for each unit. They compared access during what the researchers called “the pre-Dobbs period” and “the post-Dobbs period.”

“This study … found significantly longer travel times to abortion facilities after theDobbs … compared to pre-Dobbs,” the researchers wrote.

The study revealed that about 33% of “women of reproductive age” face excessive travel times when seeking an abortion, and twice as many women now have to travel at least 60 minutes, “twice the US government benchmark for a reasonable access to primary care.” according to a press release related to the study.

Rader and colleagues also found significant disparities based on race, socioeconomic status, and geographic area.

Only about 15% of black women had to drive an hour before the Supreme Court decision, compared to 40% now. People with middle incomes and lower health insurance rates also disproportionately face hour-long commutes.

“This was a real gap in the research,” co-author of the study Ushma Upadhyay, Ph.D., a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the University of California, San Francisco, said in the statement. “We’ve pretty much always known that abortion bans hit blacks and other people of color the hardest, but this research provides direct evidence of how these communities are being disproportionately affected by the Supreme Court’s action.”

Broken down by race, the researchers found:

  • to 25.6 (sensitivity range [SI]24.2-27) percentage point increase in black women living more than 1 hour from an abortion facility, from 10.9% (SI, 9.8-12.4) to 36.4% (SI, 35, 9-37.1);
  • a 21.7 (SI, 20.5-23) percentage point increase in Hispanic women living more than 1 hour from an abortion facility, from 8.6% (SI, 7.8-9.9) to 30, 3% (SI, 29.9-31.1), compared to non Hispanic women, who experienced an increase of 18 (SI, 15.4-20.6) percentage points, from 16% (SI, 14.3 -18.6) to 33.9% (SI, 32.9-35.7);
  • a 20.4 (SI, 15.4-25.5) percentage point increase in American Indian or Alaska Native women living more than an hour from an abortion facility, from 33.9% (SI, 30.3-38 .9) to 54.4% (SI, 52.3-57.6);
  • a 14.1 (SI, 13.8-14.5) percentage point increase in Asian women living more than 1 hour at an abortion facility, from 3.4% (SI, 3.1-3.7) to 17.5% (YES, 17.3-17.8%);
  • an 11.8 (SI, 10.7-12.8) percentage point increase in Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander women living more than an hour from an abortion facility, from 11.2% (SI, 10.3 -12.1) to 23% (SI, 22.5-23.6); e
  • an 18 (SI, 15.1-20.8) percentage point increase in white women living more than 1 hour from an abortion facility, from 17.1% (SI, 15.2-19.9) to 35% (SI, 33.8-36.9).

Geographically, the researchers found that people living in the South had the most severe consequences for travel times, “as an entire block of states stopped offering abortion services,” according to the statement. In states that have 6-week or full abortion bans, travel time increased by an average of 4 hours.

Before the court’s decision, people in Louisiana and Texas had to travel about 15 minutes to get an abortion. Now, the median is over 6 hours. The average increase in Texas was 8 hours.

“We need to understand the decreased access to this essential health service to better understand what resources we need to invest to regain that access. We were surprised to see that populations in major metropolitan areas now have to travel several hours to receive care,” co-author of the study. Yulin Hswen, ScD, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, said in the statement.

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