Since the beginning of 2021, at least 25 states have passed new laws restricting access to abortion. Oklahoma passed a law that completely bans abortion in the state, with minimal exceptions. Idaho, South Carolina, and Texas have laws that ban abortion as early as a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, which could be six or seven weeks into pregnancy. For people living in these states looking to get an abortion, many will have to travel out-of-state to end their pregnancies. And if the Supreme Court rules that access to abortion can be banned by states, it could lead to even more people seeking an out-of-state abortion.
According to the most recent national abortion data, in 2019 more than 57,000 pregnant people traveled outside of their home states for an abortion. That’s 10% of all abortions reported in the 2019 data. About two-thirds (68.7%) of abortions in Washington, DC were provided to out-of-state residents, the highest rate in the nation. The state with the lowest rate of abortions provided to out-of-state residents was Arizona at 0.5%.
Data on state of residency wasn’t available for about 4,300 out of about 630,000 abortions in the 2019 data. Some states, such as California, Maryland and New Hampshire, don’t report data on the number abortions performed there. In all, 47 states, as well as Washington, DC and New York City, provide abortion data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A pregnant person may go out-of-state to get an abortion due to laws restricting access to abortion in their home state. They may also travel for an abortion because the nearest abortion clinic is in another state, even if the laws regarding abortion are similar.
Missouri and South Carolina were the two states with the greatest number of residents getting abortions in other states.
About 85% of all abortions provided to Missouri residents occurred in another state, close to 8,000 total. Access to abortion is restricted in several ways in Missouri. Abortion coverage by private insurance is limited in the state. In Missouri, abortion is covered by insurance only in cases of life endangerment. Public funding for abortion is limited to cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. There are also age limitations on who can get an abortion without parental consent. Plus, receiving abortion medication through telemedicine is banned in the state.
About 56% of all abortions provided to South Carolina residents occurred in another state, about 6,300. In South Carolina, insurance coverage of abortion for public employees is limited to cases of life endangerment, incest, or rape. Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act cover abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. Public funding for abortions in the state is limited to people whose lives are endangered or who became pregnant through incest or rape. South Carolina also recently passed a “fetal heartbeat law,” which shortens the time span in which a pregnant person can get an abortion.
In 2019, more than 7,700 out-of-state residents traveled to Illinois for an abortion, about 16.2% of all abortions in the state. A majority of people traveling to the state came from Missouri (4,494), Indiana (1,949), and Wisconsin (495). Illinois borders states with more restrictive laws on abortion access.
Indiana passed a law in 2021 that restricted access to abortion through medication.
About 6,500 out-of-state residents traveled to Georgia for an abortion in 2019, about 17.6% of all abortions in the state. A majority of people traveling to Georgia came from South Carolina (2,155), Tennessee (1,393), and Alabama (2,348).
Tennessee has an abortion trigger law in place, which would ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. South Carolina recently passed a law prohibiting abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected
There are currently 13 states with trigger laws in place that would outright ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. In 2019, there were 97,426 or 15% of reported abortions in these 13 states. If the legality of abortion is left up to states, thousands of pregnant people seeking abortion will likely have to travel out of state to the nearest clinic where the procedure is legal.
Current Supreme Court precedence states Americans have a right to an abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. States can also have restrictions on abortion if it doesn't place an undue burden on those seeking an abortion. The 1973 Roe v. Wade case first established access to abortion as a constitutional right. The ruling also said states could not restrict abortion before the first trimester of pregnancy.
Some states including Texas and Oklahoma allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone else who assists a person receiving an abortion from the state, such as drivers to a clinic or anyone who financially assists the abortion. Connecticut passed a law this year that would protect abortion providers and those who help someone get an abortion in Connecticut from being sued in another state.
For more information on abortion statistics, see USAFacts' reported abortion metrics.
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