Earlier this summer, NOVA Women’s Healthcare (an abortion clinic in Virginia) shut its doors. It was the busiest abortion clinic in the state, so it didn’t close due to a lack of demand. Rather, the clinic was forced to close due to stringent new laws aimed at curtailing abortion access and limiting a woman’s right to choose. Anti-abortion groups would consider this a victory and mistakenly believe that they are stopping abortions. Really, they are just forcing women to travel long distances in order to gain access to abortion services.
As an article in the Carroll County Times points out, many of these Virginian women seeking an abortion will simply go to Maryland to get the procedure. With only 16 licensed abortion clinics in the entire state, Maryland can hardly be considered a state with easy access to abortion. Compared to neighboring Virginia and Pennsylvania though, both of which passed anti-abortion laws recently, Maryland seems like a safe haven of choice.
In Maryland, a woman only needs to make one appointment with an abortion clinic. She can then have her prep work, counseling and the abortion on the same day. The entire procedure takes about 4 to 6 hours, during which the patient will speak to a counselor before the actual abortion is performed. There are no set timeframes for the viability of the fetus: viability is determined by the doctor. Compare this to Virginia where, as of May 1st of this year, woman must get state-sponsored counseling which discourages them from getting an abortion and then wait 24 hours before the procedure. Considering the fact that 85% of Virginian counties have no abortion clinic, this means that women have to make multiple long distance trips to get an abortion.
Rather than endure the hassle of getting an abortion in Virginia, many women instead cross state lines into Maryland. So, it is no wonder that Virginia abortion rates are seemingly on the decline whereas Maryland abortion rates are rising above the national average.
The facts show us that curtailing abortion access does not decrease abortion. It just forces women to travel further. To give you an idea of how ineffective abortion restrictions are, just take a look at Poland. It has a complete ban on abortion, but it doesn’t stop women from traveling very far distances across country and cultural borders to get an abortion.
Limiting abortion access won’t stop abortion. What will reduce abortion is providing better sex education, better access to contraception, and more options for pregnant women (like free childcare and scholarships for single moms).