Most Patients Able to Obtain an Abortion Within One Week of Calling for an Appointment; Nearly One in 10 Wait More Than Two Weeks

Disruptive Life Events, Waiting Periods Impede Access to Services

The majority of individuals seeking abortion (76%) are able to obtain the procedure within seven days of calling to make an appointment, according to "Time to Appointment and Delays in Accessing Care Among U.S. Abortion Patients," by Rachel K. Jones and Jenna Jerman. However, 7% of abortion seekers experience a delay of more than 14 days between making the appointment and obtaining the abortion procedure.

The authors found that three characteristics were associated with delays of more than 14 days: exposure to disruptive life events, such as losing a job or falling behind on rent (which may lead to financial hardships that require patients to use additional time to find money for the procedure); obtaining a second-trimester procedure and living in a state with a waiting period requirement.

"It is concerning that nearly one in 10 abortion patients experienced delays of more than two weeks before they were able to access abortion services," says Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute. "The purported rationale for waiting periods is to give individuals more time to consider their decision, yet the overwhelming majority of patients have already made up their minds prior to making an appointment. Waiting periods pose an unnecessary burden for individuals seeking abortion care and should be eliminated."

The authors also found a number of characteristics associated with short delays. For example, patients relying on subsidies or discounts to pay for abortion care had their appointment almost a day later than those able to pay out of pocket. Previous research has shown that the majority of abortion patients (75%) are poor or low-income, yet 51% of those patients pay out of pocket for abortion care, which may lead to further delays. Other characteristics associated with short delays in accessing abortion services included recent exposure to disruptive life events and having two or more children.

"Timely access to abortion is critical. Even a delay of a few days can mean that medication abortion is not an option, or it can cause an increase in the cost of the procedure if it pushes the patient into the second trimester," says lead author, Rachel K. Jones. "If patients didn’t need to raise money to cover the cost of the procedure or have to overcome state-imposed hurdles, such as waiting periods, they would be able to access abortion services sooner."

The authors relied on data from a national sample of patients obtaining abortions in nonhospital facilities, which was gathered through the Guttmacher Institute’s 2014 Abortion Patient Survey.

"Time to Appointment and Delays in Accessing Care Among U.S. Abortion Patients," by Rachel K. Jones and Jenna Jerman, is available online.