A new analysis into the fate of abortion paints a grim picture in which millions of pregnant people will have their care displaced or eradicated entirely should the Supreme Court choose to compromise abortion access at any point in pregnancy.
The Guttmacher Institute released data today examining what abortion access will look like if the Supreme Court overturns or undermines Roe v. Wade.
As it stands, 26 states are ready to ban abortion if the Supreme Court guts Roe. Some have “trigger bans” that will make abortion immediately illegal if the precedent requiring abortion be legal in all 50 states is overturned. Some have abortion bans from before the 1973 Supreme Court decision still on the books, and others have recent near-total abortion bans that federal courts blocked from ever taking effect. Five of these states don’t have abortion bans already in place but will likely ban abortion as soon as possible, according to Guttmacher.
These states will move to ban abortion to the fullest extent allowed by the Supreme Court after it rules on the upcoming challenges to Texas SB 8 and on the 15-week ban at stake in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which the Court will hear on December 1.
Roe has collapsed in Texas, and that's just the beginning.
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To compile its data, Guttmacher considered three possibilities: those 26 states banning abortion entirely, banning abortion at 15 weeks’ gestation, and banning abortion at 20 weeks.
Regardless of how the Supreme Court chooses to limit abortion access, the impact will be grave and widespread—both for patients in those 26 states, and for clinics in other states that would bear the brunt of this displacement of care. Guttmacher identified 13 “destination states,” where millions of out-of-state patients would likely travel to seek care. According to Guttmacher, only 11 states—mostly in the Northeast—would experience no immediate impact from a Roe reversal, as they lack proximity to states that will ban abortion.
For patients living in the 26 states that would ban abortion, driving distance to the nearest clinic would increase drastically under a total abortion ban. Here’s a look at some of those numbers—how many miles a pregnant person would need to drive, and how that compares to the distance they have to travel now:
- Louisiana: 630 miles or 1,720 percent increase
- Florida: 567 miles or 6,803 percent increase
- Texas: 525 miles or 3,017 percent increase
- Mississippi: 428 miles or a 638 percent increase
- Utah: 247 miles or 837 percent increase
The impact on “destination states” is similarly devastating. For example, the number of women of reproductive age who would have to travel to Illinois to reach the nearest out-of-state clinic would increase almost 9,000 percent, up from 100,000 to 8.9 million. The number of women of reproductive age whose nearest clinic would be in Kansas would increase from 530,000 to 7.7 million, an over 1,300 percent increase. And the 46,000 patients who find their nearest clinic in California would increase almost 3,000 percent to 1.4 million. The numbers for 15-week bans and 20-week bans are lower but still substantial.
Behind these numbers are human repercussions, and they makes clear no matter how the Supreme Court rules, any restriction on abortion—be it at 20 weeks, or six weeks—will devastate access. It would be especially catastrophic for pregnant people in marginalized populations, like lower income folks or those living in rural areas who might struggle to access transportation, be unable to take time off work, or have difficulty arranging for child care or other caretaking services for their family or loved ones.
“It’s a well-known fact that restrictions don’t stop people from needing abortion,” Dr. Herminia Palacio, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, said in a news release. “Instead, they push care out of reach for many people by making abortion more expensive and logistically challenging to get.
Conversations about the future of Roe v. Wade too often revolve around worst-case scenarios, about what could happen if the Supreme Court fully reverses the foundational precedent that says abortion must be legal nationwide. Guttmacher’s analysis reveals how critical protecting and expanding access is, and how important it is to raise the bar above protecting Roe.
There can be no compromise on abortion—not at 15 weeks, not at 20 weeks, not in any context—because as this data makes clear, a restriction on abortion anywhere means less access for all, everywhere.