Too many people do not know that abortion resources do exist—even if they live in states where abortion is banned, or can’t afford to pay for the travel or medical care.
People are getting abortions. A new Guttmacher report suggests there were thousands more abortions in the states where abortion remained legal in the first half of 2023, than there were nationwide during a comparable period in 2020.
This makes stories like the TIME profile of a 13-year-old rape survivor who was not able to obtain an abortion even more heartbreaking. The teen—whom TIME referred to as Ashley (a pseudonym)—was failed by broken systems at several points. Her experience shows the stark reality of how people with money and privilege get access to the healthcare they need while those without means—especially young people and people of color—do not.
Ashley lives in Mississippi, where abortion has been banned since last summer after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Ashley and her mother asked a doctor at the local hospital “if there was any way to terminate [her] pregnancy.” The doctor said the closest abortion provider was in Chicago, which would have been a nine-hour trip. Ashley’s mother knew she couldn’t come up with the funds to cover the procedure and gas, food and a place to stay in Illinois. So, as the story explains, “Ashley did what girls with no other options do: She did nothing.” And she was forced to continue the pregnancy.
Ashley’s doctor isn’t to blame for the incorrect and insufficient information given to Ashley and her mother—anti-abortion lawmakers and extremists are.
While it’s true that Ashley had no options with the information she and her mother were given—there were options available to them. The reality is that there are abortion providers closer to Ashley’s home than in Chicago, including in Carbondale and southwestern Illinois that are a shorter drive from Ashley’s home in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Resources like the National Abortion Hotline and other abortion funds could have helped Ashley and her mother understand their options, plan their travel and even cover the costs of gas, food and a place to stay during the trip. In this case, the National Abortion Hotline very likely could have covered Ashley and her mother’s travel expenses to make the trip.
But Ashley’s doctor isn’t to blame for the incorrect and insufficient information given to Ashley and her mother—anti-abortion lawmakers and extremists are.
The patchwork of abortion laws we have across the country today is confusing and intentionally creates an environment of fear for abortion-seekers—especially for people in crisis like Ashley and those who already face barriers to equitable access to information and healthcare. How can we expect people to navigate the constant confusion of changing laws in other states and to be able to overcome barriers that have intentionally been put in their way?
Additionally, a significant number of healthcare professionals fear legal repercussions if they share information about abortion options with their patients. According to a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, in states that make it a crime for a doctor to provide an abortion, nearly 80 percent of OB-GYNS don’t make an out-of-state referral and 30 percent don’t inform their patients about online resources explaining their abortion options. This silence fails people like Ashley.
Leticia (also a pseudonym) from Louisiana faced a similar fate as Ashley, before learning about the National Abortion Hotline. Leticia was living in Louisiana when she discovered she was pregnant. She had seen the news about the state’s abortion ban and thought that abortion was illegal everywhere in the U.S. As a result of this confusion, Leticia delayed seeking care and thought she was going to be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy. However, in her second trimester, Leticia was told about the National Abortion Hotline, which she called, and got the help she needed to travel out-of-state for an abortion.
Last year, the National Abortion Hotline helped fund close to 120,000 abortion procedures. In the first half of 2023, we covered travel expenses for more than 900 people so they could access abortion care. Still, too many people like Ashley and her mother do not know that these resources exist or that they have options—even if they live in states where abortion is banned, or can’t afford to pay for the travel or medical care.
A person’s access to healthcare shouldn’t be determined by their zip code or how much money they have.
Sadly, we know Ashley’s story isn’t just one rare, isolated case. Today, 25 million girls and women of reproductive age live in states where abortion is banned or severely restricted, and we talk to people on our hotline every day who could not access abortion care without our help.
A person’s access to healthcare shouldn’t be determined by their zip code or how much money they have. In this moment when there are really two Americas—one in the states where abortion is legal, and the other where it is banned or near impossible to access—we must all work to increase people’s access to unbiased, accurate, up-to-date information. And we have to work just as hard to make abortion accessible as the anti-abortion movement works to deny people this care. The lives, livelihoods and futures of people like Ashley and Leticia depend on it.
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