It’s taking longer to schedule abortions in the US. Doctors fear riskier, more complex procedures

Following the overturn of the Roe v. Wade decision in June 2022, people seeking abortions in the U.S. have faced increasing obstacles, including longer waits for appointments, travel challenges, and increased costs. With approximately half of U.S. states now having laws that ban or restrict access to abortion, many clinics no longer offer the procedure, leading to increased demand at the remaining providers.

A survey conducted by Middlebury College economics professor Caitlin Myers revealed that, at various points, waits in several states stretched for two or three weeks, and some clinics had no available appointments. This has caused delays that can lead to abortions that are more complex, costly, and in some cases, riskier, particularly as pregnancies advance.

With the necessity of traveling out of state at the root of abortion delays, many people have struggled to access the care they need. For instance, a woman whose fetus was unlikely to survive had to call over a dozen abortion clinics before finding one that would take her, only to be put on weekslong waiting lists. Meanwhile, a teen waited seven weeks for an appointment because it took her mother that long to secure one.

In addition to the challenges of accessing care, costs for the procedure change as pregnancies progress, from up to $800 in the first trimester to $2,000 or more in the second trimester. This has led to delays that may cause people to miss the window for medication abortions or to obtain abortions later in pregnancy, which can be more complicated and carry additional risks.

To reduce delays, clinics have taken steps such as adding more telehealth appointments for medication abortions, staying open longer, and adding more staff. However, individual issues, such as canceled flights and financial concerns, can be tough to overcome. Additionally, travel distances to the nearest clinic have grown substantially in some states, making access to care even more challenging.

For example, a woman in Idaho who needed an abortion had to travel approximately 500 miles to a clinic in another state. She and her husband paid about $4,000 out of pocket for the procedure, as the clinic was out of network for her insurance. Their experience led the woman to join a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, seeking to place holds on abortion laws in Idaho and Tennessee.

The challenges faced by individuals seeking abortions highlight the impact of restricted access to care and the need for continued advocacy to ensure that people can access the reproductive care they need.

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