National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Op-ed spotlights difficulties women face accessing abortion care in the United States

In an opinion piece for Rewire, Trina Stout, a volunteer with the CAIR Project, discusses the obstacles faced by women seeking assistance accessing abortion care, noting that one caller had to travel more than 1,000 miles and across state lines to reach a provider.

Stout explains that CAIR was able to help the woman in that particular situation by providing her $600 for the procedure and a room in a budget hotel so that she would not have to sleep in her car overnight. However, Stout explains that "this caller's situation isn't uncommon. Every week, we talk with people forced to travel out of state for abortion care."

According to Stout, the CAIR Project allocated all available funds the week that woman called by Wednesday, meaning that Stout "had to tell everyone else who called that they had to reschedule. That they had to be pregnant longer than they wanted to be. That they had to make new arrangements for child care, time off work, or borrowing a car."

Outlining the financial sacrifices CAIR callers often have to make to afford care, Stout writes, "As a professional who's worked in global and public health, I'm always struck by this difference: In many other countries, leaders desperately want to expand access to voluntary contraception and abortion. The only thing standing in their way is lack of resources." Yet while the United States has the resources to "meet the reproductive health needs of every person in this country, ... our leaders choose not to" and instead "choose to punish people," she writes, outlining some of the "humiliating hoop[s]" legislators make women "jump through, just to access basic medical care."

According to Stout, such obstacles include "withholding coverage of abortion care from health insurance; allowing bosses to withhold contraceptive coverage (increasing the likelihood of need for abortion); condescending [mandatory delay laws] that range from a day to 72 hours; dangerous parental notification or consent requirements; gauntlets of sidewalk harassers screaming vitriol outside clinics; medically inaccurate, mandatory shame scripts written by politicians that doctors are forced to choke out before providing abortion care; predatory fake clinics; medically unnecessary ultrasounds; unconstitutional 20-week bans." She adds, "And now Texas will require the costly and unnecessary cremation or burial of fetal tissue from abortion or miscarriages, despite outcry from the medical community."

According to Stout, such barriers to access disproportionately "hurt folks struggling to make ends meet, people of color, and youth." For instance, she explains that barring coverage for almost all abortion care from Medicaid via the Hyde Amendment "is estimated to force one in four [low-income] women seeking abortion to carry an [unintended] pregnancy to term." Furthermore, she notes that "a woman who wants to end a pregnancy but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who is able to get an abortion."

Stout writes, "Barriers to abortion access are a public health, human rights, and economic catastrophe. And they're completely avoidable." However, under the new administration, the situation could get "[w]ay, way worse," she writes, citing President-elect Donald Trump's comments that women could travel to other states to access abortion care if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade. "Well, I can tell you that they already do," Stout states.

Stout writes that in the face of such threats, "abortion funds and advocates for reproductive health, rights, and justice across the nation will resist. We will organize. We already are." In fact, she points out that the advocacy work of "[r]eproductive justice organizations led by people of color -- such as All* Above All, the National Network of Abortion Funds, and URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity" -- helped create "a climate supportive of abortion access, which played a big role in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt U.S. Supreme Court decision this June striking down provisions of a Texas law designed to close clinics."

Stout continues, "We will continue to work toward a world where all people can determine if and when to have children, and can raise children in safe and healthy environments, free from violence," concluding, "As Black Lives Matter reminded us after the election, 'The work will be harder, but the work is the same'" (Stout, Rewire, 12/14).