Republican leaders across the U.S. have been on a successful mission to roll back abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June of last year. Abortion is now completely illegal in 12 states, making exceptions only in rare cases, such as the pregnant person’s life being threatened.
People living in areas where abortion is banned have been forced to travel to “abortion-haven” states where access is legal and safely available. But now, states that had once been havens for abortion care are cracking down on access, putting those who had been traveling from neighboring states in a more challenging position.
Lawmakers in Florida, an abortion haven for about 4,000 people, many of whom traveled from Alabama and Texas since the Supreme Court decision, have proposed a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Because Georgia has a similar ban in place, and other Southern states like Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas ban abortion completely, people would have to travel farther to Illinois, New York, or Washington, where abortion is still legal and accessible.
“Our hotline has been fielding thousands of calls from folks across the Southeast looking to access abortion care in Florida,” said Amber Gavin, the vice president of advocacy and operations at A Woman’s Choice of Jacksonville, an abortion clinic in Florida. Gavin said her team is working overtime, extra days, and hiring additional staff to manage the hoard of queries coming in.
Similar to Florida, other states are considering further restricting abortion access. Lawmakers in Utah have signed a bill to ban clinics from providing abortions beginning in 2024, Iowa is introducing a bill to completely ban abortions, and Nebraska is set to ban abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.
Virginia considered, but later rejected, a bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state previously considered and rejected two other abortion bills. Currently, abortion is legal up to 26 weeks and six days of pregnancy.
Clinics like A Woman’s Choice of Jacksonville are directing people to other abortion havens like Illinois, New York, Minnesota, Oregon, California, and Washington. However, not everyone can make the trip. Many states require a 24-hour wait period between the initial consultation and the abortion procedure. The additional cost of transportation, hotels, meals, and at least two days of child care places further burdens on many patients. And with more states outlawing the abortion pill and nationwide access to the pill hanging in the balance due to a Texas lawsuit challenging FDA approval of mifepristone, those who would otherwise rely on medication abortions could soon be out of luck.
“Your zip code shouldn’t determine your access to health care,” Gavin said. “Having to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to access abortion care is cruel and disproportionately affects our most marginalized communities. I’m most concerned about them, especially folks in rural areas and minors.”
World Population Review’s 2023 summary of U.S. Census data shows that most Black communities live in the Southern and Southeast regions of the U.S., where almost all states have strict abortion restrictions. Restricting abortion care for Black people in the areas with the highest Black maternal mortality rates further establishes the racist disparities in reproductive health care.
“Abortion bans impact the health, lives, and economic security of millions, and the harms fall hardest on people who are already facing challenges getting by and accessing essential health services and who experience ongoing discrimination,” said Amy Moy, the co-CEO of Essential Access Health, an organization advocating for access to sexual and reproductive health services.
States that ban abortion also lack appropriate minimum-wage laws and support for maternal health care and paid family leave, she adds. These states are also more likely to restrict rights for trans people and the broader LGBTQIA+ community.
Gavin’s organization and many other abortion clinics offer financial assistance for people to bear the rising abortion and other logistical costs. Many are working with and directing people to the National Network of Abortion Funds, an organization working to fund abortions throughout the U.S.
“While no one should have to travel or navigate politically imposed barriers to access care, abortion funds and practical support organizations remain a vital support system,” said Nikki Madsen, the co-executive director at the Abortion Care Network, an association of independent abortion providers across the U.S. The network raises awareness about local abortion clinics and helps people access state- and national-level funds.
Organizers are reminding pregnant people that if they need to access abortion care but live in a state where abortion is banned, there are still options available. First, they encourage people to stay informed about the laws of abortion in their state.
“The landscape of abortion care has been shifting ever since the overturn, so The Guttmacher Institute has been tracking in real time how abortion policies are affecting each state,” Madsen said.
She also recommends using sites like ineedanA.com, which offers an interactive database of abortion options based on your location, age, and stage of pregnancy. The site also answers common questions like how much the abortion may cost, how much you have to travel, and what the procedure actually involves.
Abortionfinder.org is another helpful resource that lets people search for verified, legal abortion providers near their location.
If an in-person abortion procedure is not possible, organizers encourage a consultation from an expert for a pill-based abortion. Some companies like Hey Jane offer discreet deliveries of FDA-approved abortion pills after a virtual consultation.
“Patients can cross the border into a state [where abortion is legal], consult with one of our providers, hear back typically within 24 hours, and get the medication shipped to a post office near them for pickup,” said Kiki Freedman, the co-founder and CEO of Hey Jane.
For those who are unable to pay for the pills or travel to pick up the package, Hey Jane offers sliding-scale pricing and connects people to an abortion fund that can help cover the cost.
“People can also join the fight for reproductive justice by advocating for policies that protect and expand access to abortion care,” Freedman said. “This includes voting for lawmakers who support reproductive rights, donating to one of many abortion funds, and connecting with grassroots organizing efforts—like Hey Jane’s Un-Whisper Network—to elevate the voices of those most impacted by restrictive abortion policies.”