Distance traveled to obtain clinical abortion care in the United States and reasons for clinic choice

Liza Fuentes, Boston Medical Center Jenna Jerman

First published on Journal of Women's Health:

| DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2018.7496
Abstract / Summary

Greater distance to abortion facilities is associated with greater out-of-pocket costs, emergency room follow-up care, negative mental health, and delayed care among U.S. abortion patients. However, the distance U.S. abortion patients travel has not been reported since 2008, and no study has examined reasons abortion patients choose the particular facility where they obtain their abortion.

We analyzed data from the 2014 Abortion Patient Survey and Abortion Provider Census to report abortion patients' one-way travel from their resident zip code to their abortion clinic, whether they went to the closest clinic, and reasons for facility choice. We report unadjusted and adjusted associations of patients' characteristics with travel distance and differences in average travel distance by abortion patients' reported reasons for choosing their facility.

In 2014, 65% of abortion patients traveled less than 25 miles one-way, 17% traveled 25–49 miles, and 18% traveled more than 50 miles. Abortion patients who were white, college-educated, U.S.-born, ≥12 weeks pregnant, and lived outside metropolitan areas were more likely to travel farther. Nearly half of abortion patients went to their nearest provider and 32% chose their facility because it was the closest.

These results indicate that travel distance is an important determinant of abortion care access in the United States. Nearly, one-fifth of U.S. abortion patients traveled more than 50 miles one-way and the most common reason reported for clinic choice was that it was the closest.