Since Roe V. Wade legalized abortion at the federal level in 1973, states have had control in regulating abortion access. Over the last few decades, many states have increasingly restricted abortion access through legislation.
We hear about challenges to existing laws and restrictive new laws at the state level all the time, but it’s striking to see how these laws are reducing the geographical availability of abortion providers and services, effectively constraining a woman’s ability to choose reproductive health care. In other words, even though abortion is technically legal in the United States, a woman’s access to abortion really depends on the state that she lives in.
For example, in 2008, this is what abortion restrictions looked like across the country:
And this is what they looked like in 2013. That’s a lot more red, meaning more restrictions and less access for women.
This also has an impact on availability of abortion providers. In 2008, the average number of providers per 1,000 women was 0.03, which means there was only 1 provider for about every 30,000 women.
It’s no surprise that there is a relationship between legislative restrictions and availability of abortion providers at the state level. The following maps show the “Index of Abortion Access Limitations”—calculated using the standardized score of abortion providers per 1,000 women and the standardized score of number of abortion restrictions by state. As you can see below, the more legislative restrictions a state enacts, the fewer providers it tends to have.
So, what does this mean? It means that if you’re a woman living in Texas, Nebraska, the Dakotas—and many other states in the Midwest or South—it’s now harder for you to access abortion. In the past five years, we’ve seen an increase in state restrictions against abortion, leading to clinic closures and additional barriers to reproductive health care. Looking at these maps, the threat is plain to see. Now it’s time to do something about it.