‘As fast as 5 minutes in California or as grueling as 11 hours in Texas’: Research reveals new post-Dobbs map of driving times to access abortion

Among the issues voters list as priorities ahead of the recent election, two consistently stand out: abortion access and the economy. It’s frustrating that our society often frames them as separate issues, even though we know that economic growth for all depends on women’s economic stability, which is inherently intertwined with reproductive freedom.

I recently examined how localized restrictions on abortion access affect the amount of time it takes a woman to drive to a clinic for reproductive care. What I found exposes the false dichotomy between economic prosperity and abortion access for what it is.

My new interactive digital report published by the Center for American Progress provides a first-of-its-kind analysis of abortion campaign timing by congressional district, based on data collection and research by Dr. Caitlin Knowles Myers and his colleagues. This work shows the extent to which women ages 15 to 44 have to drive to access abortion services in their congressional district, a trip that could be as quick as five minutes in parts of California or as grueling as 11 hours one way. in parts of Texas.

This data from September 2023 paints a picture of how quickly the abortion access landscape continues to evolve post-Dobbs. For example, Florida’s extreme abortion ban recently went into effect, forcing women more than six weeks gestation to drive similar lengths to women in Texas.

Examining this data on travel time by age, gender, race and ethnicity, and income revealed striking disparities in abortion access based on certain demographic groups and socioeconomic statuses. Long travel times reinforce and exacerbate gaps in women’s economic security, and are also correlated with larger gender pay gaps and lower incomes. These effects are felt most acutely by low-income women and women of color, particularly Black and Native American women, who are often harmed by policies that limit their ability to make health decisions.

This is where the false dichotomy comes into play.

Policymakers may know that their constituents have to endure long trips to access abortion care, but do they know that those same women who have to make the eight-hour trip also earn 11% less per year than women who Do they live in districts with shorter travel times? That wage gap ($4,287 to be exact) is more than the average household spends each year on electricity, water and phone bills combined.

There is plenty of credible research indicating that greater access to abortion care leads to better economic outcomes for women and their families: higher wages, less debt, fewer evictions, and more. And when a woman has to travel long distances for an abortion, she will pay more for gas, time off work, a babysitter and probably even a hotel for the night. The women who can least afford these expenses are the ones who have to do everything they can to get the care they need.

Taken together, the long travel times to access abortion services and the correlated economic hardships faced by women in those same geographic areas give us a better idea of ​​why abortion and the economy are consistently so important to voters. Bottom line: These long commute times translate into lost wages and reduced long-term economic mobility, especially for women of color.

No more travel times to abortion clinics in districts represented by Republicans double what they are in the districts represented by Democrats in Congress. Meanwhile, women in Republican-led districts also tend to earn smaller salaries than women in Democratic-led districts. That’s why it’s also important for representatives to create policies that support access to abortion care, such as paid family and medical leave, sick time, access to good, well-paying jobs, and high-quality, affordable child care.

Women should have the right to access abortion services, and they should be able to access them without sacrificing hours or even days to get to a clinic, regardless of where they live. But my analysis demonstrates the importance of addressing abortion access and economic security as two sides of the same coin. Because when essential healthcare is restricted, it’s not just women who suffer.

The distinction between economic growth and reproductive freedom is theoretical. The reality is that when women have the power to choose how and when to start a family, they do better financially. And when women prosper economically, everyone benefits.

Sara Estep is associate director of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress.

More must-read comments posted by Fortune:

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com comments are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

Leave a Comment