Barriers to Abortion Care and Their Consequences For Patients Traveling for Services: Qualitative Findings from Two States

Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2017 Jun;49(2):95-102. doi: 10.1363/psrh.12024. Epub 2017 Apr 10.


Context: Abortion availability and accessibility vary by state. Especially in areas where services are restricted or limited, some women travel to obtain abortion services in other states. Little is known about the experience of travel to obtain abortion.

Methods: In January and February 2015, in-depth interviews were conducted with 29 patients seeking abortion services at six facilities in Michigan and New Mexico. Eligible women were 18 or older, spoke English, and had traveled either across state lines or more than 100 miles within the state. Respondents were asked to describe their experience from pregnancy discovery to the day of the abortion procedure. Barriers to accessing abortion care and consequences of these barriers were identified through inductive and deductive analysis.

Results: Respondents described 15 barriers to abortion care while traveling to obtain services, and three major consequences of experiencing those barriers. Barriers were grouped into five categories: travel-related logistical issues, system navigation issues, limited clinic options, financial issues, and state or clinic restrictions. Consequences were delays in care, negative mental health impacts and considering self-induction. The experience of barriers complicated the process of obtaining an abortion, but the effect of any individual barrier was unclear. Instead, the experience of multiple barriers appeared to have a compounding effect, resulting in negative consequences for women traveling for abortion.

Conclusion: The amalgamation of barriers to abortion care experienced simultaneously can have significant consequences for patients.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / adverse effects
  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Michigan
  • New Mexico
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Travel / psychology*
  • Young Adult