What you need to know about travel costs for abortion care in the US – here’s what I learned from talking to hundreds of women who have sought abortions

(The Conversation is an independent, not-for-profit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) The abortion journey is not new. People have crossed national and state lines to get abortion care since the 1960s, when air travel became more common and affordable.

The number of people who must travel and the distances they must travel for care will increase following the US Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

As a sociologist studying gender, reproduction and health, I have interviewed hundreds of women who have sought abortions, many of whom had to travel for care. My recent study of the experiences of people who had to travel across state lines for abortion care may help people better understand what costs abortion patients face when they have to travel.

1. Why do people travel for abortion care?

People travel for medical care for many reasons. In the case of abortion travel, they are usually traveling because abortion is either legally restricted or unavailable in their home area. To get an abortion, they have no choice but to travel.

As of the end of August 2022, about half of the states in the US have already restricted or are expected to severely restrict abortion. Abortion seekers in those states can choose to travel to another state where abortion remains legal, as many Texans did after implementing their state’s highly restrictive law in 2021.

2. What are the main costs of traveling for abortion care?

Most people rightfully assume that traveling for an abortion involves expenses like gas money or plane tickets and hotel fees. While research shows that most abortion patients are at or just above the federal poverty line, it’s easy to see that these costs alone can represent a significant burden.

But traveling for an abortion often involves many other costs. For example, most abortion patients are already parenting children, so they must understand the logistics of caring for children when they must travel for abortion care. People who do not have access to a reliable vehicle may need to rent a car to make a long-distance drive across state lines.

Abortion funds—nonprofit organizations that provide practical and financial support to people seeking abortion care—can help people who are struggling financially navigate some of these costs. But often this aid is not enough to cover all expenses. There are also real questions about whether the funds can meet the growing demand.

And then there’s the issue of lost wages during the time a patient has to spend traveling. For many people engaged in hourly work, when you don’t work, you don’t get paid.

Traveling for an abortion can also have an emotional cost. I am currently working on a new study based on interviews with 30 women from across the US about the emotional impacts of traveling overseas for abortion care. Based on these interviews, I’ve learned that traveling for abortion care can mean the stress of navigating a new country. For some people, this may be their first time in that city or even away from home. It also means leaving their usual support systems and the physical and emotional comforts of home. This, too, can have an emotional impact.

And, of course, having to travel means explaining to others – including co-workers and family members – why you’re traveling, which can also have a high personal and emotional cost.

3. Are there any positives to traveling for abortion care?

There is not much work on this issue to date. Most research on abortion travel has focused on its negative aspects. But in my research, some of the women who had to travel for abortion care talked about how much they appreciated the emotional support they received at their destination clinic—especially after the hostility toward abortion they had experienced in their home communities.

Seeking non-judgmental and compassionate care may motivate someone to choose to travel for abortion care. But in the post-Roe landscape, few will have that luxury. Rather, travel will be a necessity, not a choice. Even with the potential for emotional benefits, the journey for abortion care entails clear and significant costs.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/what-to-know-about-the-costs-of-traveling-for-abortion-care-in-the-us-heres-what-i-learned- by -speaker-to-hundreds-of-women-who-sought-abortion-187266.

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