Trump policies create ‘abortion deserts’ across America

May 16, 2018

More than 60% of Americans think abortion should usually be legal—but it is getting harder to find a clinic that will supply such services since the Trump administration began to de-fund and delegitimize the procedure.

Indeed, according to a report by The Hill, Trump is scheduled to speak at the Susan B. Anthony List “Campaign for Life” gala on May 22—an anti-abortion event.

The POTUS already has taken steps targeting the right to abortion in American, including the so-called Mexico City policy, which prohibits federal funding of international organizations that discuss or offer referrals for abortion services.

In addition, about $300 million in Title X family planning money is in jeopardy in the United States right now, because Congressional Republicans are trying to ensure that the Department of Health and Human Services “has flexibility to change regulations governing how it is spent.”

Planned Parenthood, which annually receives about $60 million in Title X funds, may lose its second-largest financing stream as a result; and other programs also are going by the wayside.

It’s not just rural women who must travel long distances to get an abortion, Mother Jones reported on May 15. Researchers mapped out 780 abortion facilities across America in a new University of California  study out on May 14—and found that 27 major cities are 100 miles or more from the nearest abortion provider. The South and the Midwest have the largest “abortion deserts,” according to the study.

For instance, residents of Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia all are limited to one in-state abortion facility, researchers from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco found. The 27 “abortion deserts”—defined as major cities with populations over 50,000 where residents would have to travel 100 miles or more to get an abortion—include places like Chattanooga, Tennessee.; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Springfield, Missouri.

The worst major city for abortion access, the UC researchers said, is Rapid City, South Dakota, where women must travel 318 miles to get an abortion.

“We were able to see what the average person sees when they set out to seek abortion care,” Ushma Upadhyay, an associate professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at UC San Francisco, and an author on the study, told Mother Jones in an email. “There are huge parts of the country where the distance to the closest provider poses a massive barrier to getting an abortion.”

In California, the team counted 152 abortion facilities, the largest number of any state. Maine had the greatest access per person, at one clinic for every 13,905 women. By contrast, Missouri, which already is known for its restrictive abortion laws, Mother Jones reports, has the worst abortion access of any continental state, at about 1.4 million women per facility.

“Access to transportation is a barrier for people seeking all types of health care, in both urban and rural settings,” the study’s authors write. “Lower-income women who are unable to access a car or money for gas may have to travel by bus, train, or other forms of transportation, which also becomes more difficult the farther they have to travel.”

There’s no clear solution on the horizon.

Research contact:  Ushma.Upadhyay@ucsf.edu

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