When women who find themselves unable to legally obtain abortion services in their home state or community travel across state or country lines in order to procure a safe and legal abortion, it is commonly referred to as “abortion travel.”

Documents leaked to the public in April 2022 appear to show that the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade. Roe is the landmark decision that legalized abortion access nationwide. If Roe is overturned, each state would determine the legality within their own state.

Twenty-six states are expected to ban or severely restrict access to abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. This would increase the number of women traveling for abortion care.

Many states that have enacted and will enact this legislation already restrict elective abortions. In recent years, restrictions at clinics have curtailed a woman’s ability to get an abortion near home. So, neighboring states with abortion facilities have seen an uptick in abortion travel. Some of these clinics are now preparing for an additional surge in patients from states set to introduce complete bans.

Is abortion travel legal?

It appears that yes – crossing state lines from a state that bans abortion services into a state that provides abortion services is legal. The most restrictive states may try to pass travel bans, but most experts agree these would be difficult to enforce.

History of abortion travel

Abortion services were legal for much of American history. Tribal nations have always permitted abortions, and in colonial times all the way up to the mid-1800’s abortion was considered legal prior to the onset of fetal movement (generally speaking, in the 4th month).

Around the Civil War, a political movement led by doctors who were primarily male and Catholic began the push to ban abortion. By 1910, abortion services were illegal across the United States. However, women who had the money traveled out of the country to skirt the law and obtain abortion services.

In 1967, England liberalized its abortion laws so any woman could get an abortion with the written consent of two physicians. More than 600 American women made the trip to the United Kingdom during the last three months of 1969 alone. By 1970, package deals to England that included round-trip airfare, passports, vaccination, transportation to and from the airport, lodging and meals, in addition to the procedure itself, were advertised in the popular media.

Beginning in 1970, four U.S. states—Alaska, Hawaii, New York and Washington—repealed their antiabortion statutes, and generally allowed licensed physicians to perform abortions on request before fetal viability. Alaska, Hawaii and Washington required a woman seeking an abortion to be a resident of the state for at least 30 days prior to the procedure. New York did not include a residency requirement.

The year before the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, 100,000 women left their own state to obtain a legal abortion in New York City. According to an analysis by The Alan Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 50,000 women traveled more than 500 miles to obtain a legal abortion in New York City; nearly 7,000 women traveled more than 1,000 miles, and 250 traveled more than 2,000 miles, from places as far as Arizona, Idaho and Nevada.

Abortion travel to other states

If, as expected, the U.S. Supreme Court decides in 2022 that all states can limit abortions to the earliest stages of pregnancy or ban the procedure altogether, hundreds of thousands of Americans may start traveling to states where abortion remains legal.

In preparation, lawmakers in these states are considering bills that would remove hurdles such as waiting periods. Some are also planning to help low-income patients by paying for travel and other practical expenses that can add to the cost of abortion care.

Which states will provide abortion services when Roe vs. Wade is repealed?

The states that will continue to provide abortion service if Roe vs. Wade is repealed are:

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. In all of these states, plus the District of Columbia, abortion services are codified into law and will remain legal in a post-Roe world.

Which states will not provide abortion services when Roe vs. Wade is repealed?

The states that are likely to ban or significantly restrict abortion services are:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

New Mexico has not codified abortion services into law as of yet, but is expected to – especially if the repeal occurs. Many women from nearby states like Arizona and Texas would potentially see New Mexico as the best option for obtaining a safe and legal abortion, as their home states will not permit it.

Many women who currently live in states with restrictive abortion laws are already traveling across state lines to obtain abortion services.

Abortion travel to Mexico

Abortion has only been legalized in Mexico since 2021, but women’s rights activists in the country have long been providing their own citizens with under-the-radar abortion services. This long-standing practice established the infrastructure, and now that abortion has been legalized in Mexico, activists are anticipating more medical abortions over the border.

Abortion travel to Canada

People without immigration status in Canada are charged about $500 CAD, which is a little under $400 USD, for a surgical abortion. Americans do not need a health card to access clinics in Canada, but there are wait times. Wait times vary, from one to two weeks in Ontario to several weeks or months in the Atlantic provinces.

Abortion travel covered by employers

Many large employer insurance plans already cover workers’ travel expenses for certain out-of-state health care procedures. But many, large companies now are publicly announcing that they will cover travel expenses for workers who need to travel out-of-state for abortion if it is banned where they live. Yelp, Citigroup, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon are just a few of the growing list of companies that have announced these plans.

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