Abortion travel is a new battleground since the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade — and pro-life activists say that more is needed in local communities to reach women before they leave the state.
According to Planned Parenthood’s former “special affiliate,” the Guttmacher Institute, abortion travel has ticked upward in recent years. “In the decade prior to 2020, the proportion of abortion patients traveling out of state to obtain care rose steadily, from 6% in 2011 to 9% in 2020,” Guttmacher wrote.
But since the Dobbs decision in June of 2022, abortion travel has spiked due in part to private abortion funding organizations, corporate dollars, and increased assistance to fly women to obtain abortions out of state.
And state data is confirming this.
According to NPR, preliminary numbers for Colorado show more than twice as many people from other states came for an abortion in 2022 compared to 2021. In Illinois, according to NPR, “an average 1,140 more abortions [have taken place] each month” with out-of-state abortions rising “six-fold, from roughly 5% to about 30%, since the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Live Action News previously documented that while the number of total abortions in Indiana for the first quarter of 2023 dropped from where they were in 2022, abortions on out-of-state women in the first quarter of 2023 increased.
Pro-life activists on the ground are also seeing an uptick in abortion travel.
Live Action News spoke to Lynn Mills, who offers sidewalk counseling outside Michigan abortion facilities. She said, “While the abortion numbers in Michigan went down for residents, they rose for out-of-state clients.” Indeed, according to Bridgemi.com, the number of abortion clients coming from out of state rose by 66% in Michigan.
Mark Cavaliere, CEO of Southwest Coalition, Inc., told Live Action News they are also witnessing an influx of Texas residents traveling to New Mexico, where the state’s pro-abortion governor recently established an abortion hotline for women seeking abortion.
“Its not uncommon to see Ubers dropping off women at abortion clinics with luggage in tow,” Cavaliere said.
Mike Seibel, Senior Counsel with Abortion on Trial, is regularly outside abortion facilities in New Mexico. Seibel confirmed eyewitness increases in abortion travel as well. “We’ve seen a massive influx of Texas people, almost 80-90% of all the cars I see outside clinics in New Mexico are from Texas,” he said.
NPR claims that, since last year, “some Planned Parenthood clinics [in New Mexico] have seen out-of-state patient loads double — now accounting for 40% of abortions.”
“Some states have taken immediate steps to protect human life while other locations have literally dubbed themselves abortion destinations or even abortion tourist states and cities,” Sidewalk Advocates for Life CEO Lauren Muzyka pointed out in the organization’s documentary, “Saving Lives in Post-Roe America.”
Abortion travel, according to Muzyka, “is the new ground zero and biggest question in the post-Roe abortion battle” and she asked, “How do we reach mothers in crisis before they’re tempted to cross state lines and then, how do we best serve them and help them to choose life for their preborn children once they’ve traveled hundreds of miles to the next nearest abortion facility?”
Difficulty Reaching Women Who Travel
“It’s been harder than ever to connect with women because they are so committed to their decision,” Cavalier claimed.
His sidewalk counselors used to see multiple babies’ lives saved each week with New Mexico residents, but they are struggling to reach women traveling from out of state.
“The need to reach Texas women has never been greater,” Cavaliere claimed. “She is more likely to be influenced for life before she leaves the state. Even the offer of free ultrasounds seems to have lost its appeal with abortion travel clients often because they want to keep the appointment to catch a flight.”
Seibel agreed, telling Live Action News, “One of the things the sidewalk advocates we work with have noticed is that women who travel are becoming increasingly more abortion determined once they get here, but it might not be as tough in the state of origin. The biggest thing is to reach them before they get into the car to travel in the first place.”
Cavaliere told Live Action News that abortionists in New Mexico are offering discounts to women who travel further distances, while many pro-life donors have stopped giving in their local communities, assuming that abortion is no longer an issue locally.
“We need more focus on pregnancy outreach to the women in their local communities because by the time we see them in New Mexico they are invested in their decision and its harder to change their minds,” Cavaliere stated. “I’m specifically speaking about Texas cities where pro-life donors may not feel the same level of urgency to support their local pregnancy resource centers. I would say the need is greater now because those PRC’s need more dollars for marketing to reach the women before they leave the state.”
Muzyka said it is easier to be there to assist women in their local communities than to reach out once they’re tempted to cross state lines. “It’s so much easier, we’ve seen it on the ground firsthand. That women – because abortion is not readily available – they are going ahead and getting on a mobile unit more readily or going to pregnancy resource center nearby really interested in our services. But by the time that they’ve made that commitment to that drive – to that flight… it is so much harder to get them to pause.”
“It’s that psychology of influence, commitment, and consistency. They made a commitment to do this by this time. It’s so much harder to get your mind around the travel back home, what it’s going to cost, the time and the energy, and the effort to find a new solution to your crisis,” Muzyka said. “So again, we are hearing of turnarounds in abortion destination cities and states, but it is so much harder. People need you in abortion restrictive cities to be there on the ground…to reach women before they are tempted to make a commitment to going across state lines to take the life of their child.”
Oversaturation of Abortion Facilities
Seibel believes that abortion travel may be leveling off due in part to declining abortion funding dollars — and he claimed the mid-year numbers in New Mexico confirm this.
“According to government reported numbers, New Mexico had 11,000 abortions last year in the state with 5,300 in the first six months this year, which suggests a downward trend in the number of abortions. Seibel said this made him more optimistic because “it looks as though New Mexico may have fewer abortions in 2023 than they did in 2022.”
“And we are not seeing the clinics being as busy as they were the same time last year,” Seibel added. “The other thing that is kind of significant is that Curtis Boyd’s facility in Dallas closed in March of this year and is no longer providing referrals into New Mexico.”
Due to litigation brought by Abortion on Trial, Seibel claimed that “Boyd is also no longer doing late-term, third-trimester abortions, which were between 500 to 1,000 a year out here.”
Still, Seibel claimed that New Mexico may be becoming oversaturated with abortion facilites, which could eventually lead to closures.
Pro-life Collaboration In Restrictive States
Cavaliere said that pro-life organizations and donors in restrictive states need to coordinate strategically with pro-life activists on the ground in expansion states to better assist women and families. In one example, Cavaliere noted how women may feel that if they do not go through with the abortion, they will not be reimbursed for travel expenses.
“The other side is only willing to pay her way home if she goes through with the abortion. In that case, is the pro-life movement ready to step up to pay for her travel? Does this just fall on the local New Mexico groups, or could we collaborate with pro-lifers in other states to help fund and assist these women?” Cavaliere asked. “We are seeing the need to do what the other side is doing and collaborate across state lines and regionally to establish a regional hotline that could help facilitate referrals and outreach for travel cases.”
Seibel agreed, suggesting the “continued development of partnerships and networks between pro-life pregnancy centers and sidewalk counselors back in the local communities to transition care as quickly and effectively as possible.”
Seibel then laid out a three-pronged approach. “Number one, pro-lifers need to show up to centers in red states – like Planned Parenthood – even though abortion may be banned because many of these facilities are still referring women out of state and pro-lifers can potentially intercept women at these places,” he stated. “Number two, pass local and state laws prohibiting the funding for travel for abortions being performed out of state on their residents. And, number three, provide greater education for women within their own communities about the dangers of abortion and the abortion pill. And if they know of anyone who is injured, have them contact ReproductiveInjustice.com for a consultation.”