The Geography of Abortion Access

As a collective unit, Americans are pretty keen on the civics-class idea that life in the 6,106,012 square miles of God’s green earth that is the USA is more or less equitable for the 313,847,465 people who have hunkered down to live on the craggy coasts, fruited plains, and purple mountains filled with majesty. We’ve got proportional representation in Congress, a legal system that presumes innocence before guilt, and the ability to walk into any 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee and slice of pizza that will cost you $4 and a year of your life, which has to say something about the level playing field we’ve got going, right?

But as we mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the truth is that access to abortion isn’t anywhere close to equitable for women around the country. In fact, things are worse in certain parts of the U.S. than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. In nearly every state, the total number of abortion providers has dropped since 1978—even in traditionally liberal havens like California, which as of 2008 had 522 abortion providers, down from its peak of 608 in 1988. Still, California law has been consistent in its support for women attempting to get an abortion; the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks access to the procedure, counts states as “supportive” if they haven’t enacted more than one restrictive measure for women seeking termination, such as waiting periods, mandated counseling, or parental notification in the case of a minor. New York, Washington, Oregon, and most New England states have also been rated as consistently supportive of abortion rights over the last decade.

But the middle of the country is a different story—states that once stood firmly on the middle ground when it came to abortion access have moved into “hostile” territory on the Guttmacher scale, enacting four or more restrictive provisions since the year 2000 on women seeking abortions. Look at a map of the country that tracks abortion access, and you will see geographical corridors of restriction. Over the past ten years, the Great Plains states have become progressively more antagonistic to abortion-seekers; Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, all of which were on the “middle ground” in 2000, have moved into the “hostile” category; Kansas now has only one abortion provider per 100,000 people. The Deep South has shifted over the past decade as well—Florida, a state of almost 19 million in 2010 had only 5 abortion providers per 100,000 people, down from 12 in 1980.

Why the changes in access? According to a poll released last week by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a majority of Americans—63 percent—want Roe v. Wade to remain the law, but anti-choice activists are working at the state level to erode access: In 2011, state legislatures overall enacted 92 provisions to restrict abortions. The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-choice advocacy group, has been keeping a scorecard of states that have moved to defund Planned Parenthood, which the List calls “a business centered around abortion, and a willing ally of those that wish to harm young girls in the sex trafficking business.” Roe may be here to stay, but there’s a way’s to go before the playing field of access is leveled for all American women. 

 

Abortion Access, 1980

Abortion providers per 100,000 people.
Hover over state to see more detailed figures

 

Abortion Access, 1990

Abortion providers per 100,000 people.
Hover over state to see more detailed figures

 

Abortion Access, 2000

Abortion providers per 100,000 people.
Hover over state to see more detailed figures

 

Abortion Access, 2010

Abortion providers per 100,000 people.
Hover over state to see more detailed figures

 

 

Comments

The Republican Party. The same political party that is opposed to paying for health care to anyone, including the fetus before it is born, is the "problem" here.A

So Republicans won't help pregnant women to KEEP their unborn babies healthy and alive, but they insist that those women must not abort those babies on purpose, EVEN TO KEEP THEMSELVES ALIVE, much less because they were raped! And helping women AFTER they give birth is out of the question!

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