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J Med Internet Res. 2018 May 14;20(5):e186. doi: 10.2196/jmir.9717.

Identifying National Availability of Abortion Care and Distance From Major US Cities: Systematic Online Search.

Author information

1
Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, Oakland, CA, United States.
2
University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, United States.
3
Zuckerberg San Francisco General Library, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Abortion is a common medical procedure, yet its availability has become more limited across the United States over the past decade. Women who do not know where to go for abortion care may use the internet to find abortion facility information, and there appears to be more online searches for abortion in states with more restrictive abortion laws. While previous studies have examined the distances women must travel to reach an abortion provider, to our knowledge no studies have used a systematic online search to document the geographic locations and services of abortion facilities.

OBJECTIVE:

The objective of our study was to describe abortion facilities and services available in the United States from the perspective of a potential patient searching online and to identify US cities where people must travel the farthest to obtain abortion care.

METHODS:

In early 2017, we conducted a systematic online search for abortion facilities in every state and the largest cities in each state. We recorded facility locations, types of abortion services available, and facility gestational limits. We then summarized the frequencies by region and state. If the online information was incomplete or unclear, we called the facility using a mystery shopper method, which simulates the perspective of patients calling for services. We also calculated distance to the closest abortion facility from all US cities with populations of 50,000 or more.

RESULTS:

We identified 780 facilities through our online search, with the fewest in the Midwest and South. Over 30% (236/780, 30.3%) of all facilities advertised the provision of medication abortion services only; this proportion was close to 40% in the Northeast (89/233, 38.2%) and West (104/262, 39.7%). The lowest gestational limit at which services were provided was 12 weeks in Wyoming; the highest was 28 weeks in New Mexico. People in 27 US cities must travel over 100 miles (160 km) to reach an abortion facility; the state with the largest number of such cities is Texas (n=10).

CONCLUSIONS:

Online searches can provide detailed information about the location of abortion facilities and the types of services they provide. However, these facilities are not evenly distributed geographically, and many large US cities do not have an abortion facility. Long distances can push women to seek abortion in later gestations when care is even more limited.

KEYWORDS:

abortion patients; abortion seekers; access to information; information seeking; information seeking behavior; internet; reproductive health; reproductive health services

PMID:
29759954
PMCID:
PMC5972217
DOI:
10.2196/jmir.9717
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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