Hundreds rally at the state Capitol for the MI Body MI Choice event on Oct. 2, 2021 | Allison R. Donahue
Seventeen states now ban most abortions, including Georgia and South Carolina, which have laws on the books against terminating pregnancies after six weeks. Despite hurdles, some patients are still able to get care elsewhere.
Abortions increased during the first half of 2023 in states bordering restrictive states and in those with protective laws, according to recent data released last week by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization.
In Michigan, where voters in 2022 made abortion a constitutional right, there were 2,560 more abortions in the first half of this year.
Few abortions were reported in the states that banned abortion during that six-month span, the research shows. But border states — New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois and Washington — saw a significant uptick. So did South Carolina during the same time period, because the state’s six-week ban didn’t go into effect until late last month.
Researchers compared the estimated change in pregnancy terminations from January to June 2023 with a similar period in 2020 — before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
“The scale of the increase in border states when we look at 2020 and 2023 is striking,” Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a data scientist and co-author of the Institute’s policy analysis, told States Newsroom’s Reproductive Rights Today newsletter. “It’s clearly driven by a lot of travel from banned states.”
For example, New Mexico, seen as an access point for Texans and Arizonans, saw 6,480 more abortions — a 220% increase — performed by providers during the first six months of the year compared with a similar period during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. And South Carolina, which previously allowed some second-trimester abortions, saw 3,270 more abortions — a 124% increase — than three years ago.
“Even when we’re talking about the impact of Dobbs, it’s a mixture of bans and protective policies — I mean both things like legislative policies and things like telehealth abortion,” Maddow-Zimet said.
Other states surrounded by bans — Colorado, Illinois and Washington — also saw significant increases in abortions from 2020 to 2023. According to Maddow-Zimet, those numbers could be partially attributed to legislators passing measures that protect both patients and providers from out-of-state prosecution or threats, and that expands access.
To be clear, California (12,300 more abortions) and New York (9,950 more abortions) saw substantially more abortions this year compared with 2020, too. They have large populations and broad reproductive politics, so it’s difficult to parse out the data in those states, according to the researcher.
The data solely comes from information reported by the U.S. health care system. It’s nearly impossible to find tallies on self-managed abortions or people who were unable to get abortion care.
“When we’re looking at these numbers, they’re representing real people who are having to overcome pretty significant financial burdens or logistical burdens to get care,” Maddow-Zimet said. “They’re often relying on external support from folks, like abortion funds.”
This story first ran in the Reproductive Rights Today newsletter. Subscribe here.
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