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Out-of-state residents seeking abortion care in Massachusetts jumped 37% after Roe v. Wade reversal

The amount of people traveling from their home states to Massachusetts to obtain abortion care jumped by over 37% in the four months after Roe v. Wade was reversed by the Supreme Court, according to an analysis by researchers based at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2022, over a dozen states have completely banned abortion. Others have placed strict restrictions on the procedure. Many states that have banned abortion are in the same region of the country, creating areas where it’s hard to access such care even by traveling across state lines.

Researchers wanted to “understand how many out-of-state travelers come to Massachusetts for abortion care, and how they cover the cost of care,” said co-author Elizabeth Janiak, a researcher and assistant professor in the division of family planning at the hospital’s department of obstetrics and gynecology, in the news release announcing the study. Brigham and Women’s Hospital is affiliated with Harvard University.

Researchers reviewed over 45,000 abortion care records from a four-year period before Roe v. Wade was overturned to determine what trends existed before the ruling. Using that data, they were able to estimate the expected number of abortions after Dobbs v. Jackson. Then, they compared the data collected in the four months after Roe was overturned to the expected number.

Researchers found a 6.2% increase in the total number of abortions during those four months. However, when they filtered the data by the state a patient lived in, there was a 37.5% increase in how many out-of-state residents were traveling to Massachusetts for abortion care. That resulted in about 45 additional abortions from out-of-state residents.

“We’ve always had abortion travelers from New England, but now we see that we have people coming from much farther away like Texas, Louisiana, Florida, or Georgia,” Janiak said in the news release. “… Because of the large historical dataset, we know that these are real changes and not chance fluctuations.”

The study also found an increase in the amount of out-of-state residents who received abortion funding from non-profits and charities that work to alleviate the cost of such care.

Before Dobbs v. Jackson, the proportion of out-of-state residents receiving funding was just 8%, but after the ruling, that number rose to 18%. In-state residents use of that funding increased from 2 to 3% in the same time period. Janiak said that the increase is likely due to the larger costs associated with interstate travel. None of the states bordering Massachusetts have abortion bans, making it likely that people are traveling from more than one state away to obtain care.

“In states like Massachusetts, we know the state government as well as advocates and healthcare providers are very invested in ensuring abortion access,” Janiak said. “We hope the data from this study serves as an example of how states across the country that share this commitment can monitor the trends in and needs of interstate travelers.”

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