Commentary

Study Shows Women Seeking Abortion Face Few Delays, Despite Pro-Abort Groups’ Complaints

Michael New
By Michael New | August 24, 2016 | 11:14 AM EDT

Two women wait in an exam room in San Juan, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Late last week, the Guttmacher Institute released a study that analyzed wait times among women seeking abortions. They surveyed over 8,000 women who obtained abortions in 2014. The results indicate that few women face significant delays.  Over three-fourths of women were able to obtain an abortion within a week of calling to make an appointment. The average time to appointment was 7.6 days. Additionally, wait times were very similar among women of various racial groups, ages, and income levels.

The study also found that pro-life laws do not dramatically impact wait times. Women in states with waiting periods had to wait an additional day and a half before they could obtain an abortion. Women in states with waiting periods that required in-person counseling saw their average wait time increase by a little more than two days. Even women who traveled more than 50 miles for their abortion had a wait time that was less than a day more than the average.

Interestingly, in 2006 a group of Guttmacher scholars published a similar study in the journal Contraception. This study surveyed 1,209 women who obtained abortions in 2004. The Contraception study found that in 2004 women waited an average of 10 days between first attempting to schedule an appointment and actually obtaining an abortion. Now the 2006 study had a smaller sample size and there appear to be some slight differences in the wording of the wait time questions in 2006 and 2016. That said, this new study shows no evidence that wait times have increased in the past 10 years and provides some evidence that waiting times might have actually decreased. 

In recent years, many states, particularly in the South, have taken the lead in enacting protective pro-life laws. Supporters of legal abortion have worked overtime to argue that these pro-life laws are causing a massive public health crisis. For instance, there have been misleading studies which have claimed that Texas has seen big increases in both self-induced abortions and Medicaid births. Several news outlets have published anecdotes of women who have had to travel great distances to obtain abortions.  However, this latest Guttmacher study demonstrates there are few, if any, substantial roadblocks to a vast majority of women who are seeking abortions.

Michael J. New is a Visiting Associate Professor at Ave Maria University and an Associate Scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New

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