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Out-of-state abortions have risen in Washington since 2022

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The number of out-of-state women coming to Washington for abortions went up after 2022, when national protections for abortion care ended, according to a new assessment from University of Washington Medicine.

“The increasing number of abortions, out-of-state patients and delays to care points to the need for increased investment in and resources for abortion care in Washington,” Taylor Riley said in a statement. Riley is a graduate student at UW's department of epidemiology.

“This could include expanding the number of abortion-providing facilities and strengthening existing primary care and telehealth accessibility, financial support and referral systems within the state.”

The UW study points out that certain statistics around this group of patients changed after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Dobbs vs Jackson. After that, laws around abortions became a state-by-state issue, with some banning the medical care and others, like Washington, protecting it with local laws.

Since that decision, NPR reports that there has been "a slow and small steady increase in the number of abortions per month" at a national level (there were 82,000 abortions per month in the United States in 2022, and 86,000 per month in 2023). This is based on yet another study, which concluded that telehealth is playing a role in accessing abortions by medication.

UW Medicine study on out-of-state abortions in Washington

UW researchers looked at data from Cedar River Clinics, a network of clinics in Washington state. The clinics' data shows a 50% increase in out-of-state patients seeking abortions (its share of out-of-state patients went from 4% to 6% of all cases).

They also documented that this group of patients experienced, on average, a one-week delay in care.

“While a one-week delay does not sound significant, any delays in receiving abortion care are problematic because it adversely affects the health of the pregnant person,” said Dr. Emily Godfrey with UW Medicine.

Godfrey is the senior author of the paper now published in JAMA. Researchers compared data before and after the Dobbs decision — from January 1, 2017 through June 23, 2022, and then June 24, 2022 through July 31, 2023.

Before the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, 6% of women seeking an abortion at Cedar River Clinics in Washington were from Texas. After the decision, it went up to 27%. Texas is now the state sending Washington the highest number of out-of-state women seeking abortions.

Before Dobbs, most out-of-state women were coming to the Washington clinics from Montana (9%), Idaho (8%), and Oregon (6%). While Texas now leads this statistic, Louisiana (6%) and Florida (6%) have also risen to the top of the list.

The share of women from Idaho was unchanged at 8%.

RELATED: 'I didn’t want one, but I needed one.' An Idaho mother comes to Washington for an abortion

The number of women from Alaska declined, however. A total of 52% of Cedar River patients were from Alaska before the Dobbs decision, and 26% after. That state still has laws protecting abortion care.

  • More patients in the study (72%) opted for procedural abortions, instead of medication (28%).
  • The study notes that 31% of patients were white, 23% identified as Black, 14% were Hispanic, and 13% were Asian.
  • 61% of the out-of-state patients already had children.
  • 62% of patients used public insurance.
  • A total of 18,379 abortions were performed by the network of clinics during this timeframe, both before and after Dobbs. A total of 3,378 abortions were performed after the Dobbs decision.

This story has been updated to state that 72% of all patients in the study opted for procedural abortions.

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