Why closing ‘clinics’ saves lives: Study finds fewer abortions when women have to travel

The Journal of the American Medical Association found that increased distances to abortion centers are associated with lower abortion rates.
Thu Jul 15, 2021 - 12:42 pm EST
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July 15, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – A recently published U.S. study has found that the farther a woman lives from an abortion center the less likely she is, statistically, to abort her child.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study, which collected abortion data from 1,948 counties, found that increases in median travel distance to the nearest abortion center were associated with significant reductions in median abortion rate, measured per county.

For every 1000 female residents of reproductive age a median rate of 21.1 abortions were recorded for a median travel distance of less than five miles to the nearest abortion center. This fell to 12.2 abortions for median distances of five to fifteen miles, and further dropped to 3.9 abortions for distances of 120 miles or more. 

“Some people argue that if Roe v. Wade is overturned and some states protect preborn children – women will simply obtain abortions in other states where the laws are more permissive.  However, this study shows that the travel involved with heading to another state will dissuade some women from obtaining abortions,” said Dr. Michael New, a research scholar who studied Political Science and Statistics at Stanford University.

In 2019, The Guttmacher Institute shared U.S. data from 2014 reporting that 65 percent of women seeking abortions traveled less than 25 miles one-way for their abortion, 17 percent traveled 25 to 49 miles, and 18 percent traveled more than 50 miles away for their abortion.

The JAMA study authors cite several other regional studies which they claim are “consistent” with their own study findings, “suggesting this phenomenon is robust to differing analytic approaches.”

One study by the Institute of Labor Economics analyzed the impact of abortion access on abortion rates using “cross-county variation in access to abortion” generated by Texas legislation that “significantly reduced funding for family planning services and increased restrictions on abortion clinic operations.”

The study found that “[i]n-state abortions fell 20% and births rose 3% in counties that no longer had an abortion provider within 50 miles.” The authors acknowledged that in-state abortion numbers “may not capture the total effect on abortions” because of potential out-of-state or self-administered abortions. They described the three percent birth increase as “more informative of the total effect on fertility-related behaviors.”

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The study also found that “births increased 1% and contraceptive purchases rose 8% in counties without a publicly-funded family planning clinic within 25 miles.”

The JAMA study attempts to address some of its limitations, such as its assumption that women would travel to the nearest abortion center, acknowledging that factors such as financial limitations may impact the choice of an abortion facility. It notes that a national survey showed that 80 percent of women who aborted their children “went to the nearest facility or to one that was within 15 miles of the nearest facility.”

The authors of the study also sought to address the possibility of “reverse causality” – that is, a scenario where the presence of abortion facilities are an indication of abortion demand – by citing a U.S. study, published in December 2020, that “showed that increased distance to abortion providers accounted for their observed declines in the abortion rate.”

The JAMA study authors posed state laws and regulations as an explanation for lack of abortion facilities in a given location, rather than lack of demand.

  abortion, abortion travel distances, journal of the american medical association

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