Crossing the 'abortion desert': Women increasingly travel out of their states for the procedure

By:  Molly Hennessy-Fiske

When she discovered she was pregnant, the 22-year-old aspiring veterinarian started calling abortion clinics in her home state of Oklahoma. It was a short list – there are only two, and neither could get her an appointment quickly.

Unemployed, no car, and still living with her parents, Pearl thought about trying Texas, but knew the state had also recently tightened restrictions on clinics.

Finally, Pearl – who asked not to use her full name for fear of upsetting her conservative family back in Comanche County – got her boyfriend to take her to South Wind Women’s Center in Kansas, a four-hour drive north.

“It’s ridiculous that I have to travel,” Pearl said as she waited at the clinic last week to get abortion medication. “Not everyone is as strong as this. Not everyone is made of stone. It’s stressful to travel all this way.”

The National Abortion Federation hotline referred 209 Texas patients to New Mexico last year, compared with 21 in 2013, said Vicki Saporta, the group’s president and chief executive. The number of Texas patients at one Albuquerque clinic alone more than tripled, jumping from 19 to 67 last year, she said.

As more states adopt more restrictive laws and the number of clinics dwindles in the so-called “abortion desert” – an area that stretches from Florida to New Mexico and north into the Midwest – women are increasingly traveling across state lines to avoid long waits for appointments and escape the legal barriers in their home states.

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