MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Washington has become ‘safe haven for people seeking abortions,’ study finds

May 31, 2024, 5:00 AM

Photo: People hold signs and cheer during a protest and rally for abortion rights, Saturday, May 14...

People hold signs and cheer during a protest and rally for abortion rights, Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP)

(Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP)

A new study, published in JAMA Network Open this week, has found that since the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, Washington has seen a 50% increase in out-of-state patients seeking abortions. (A PDF of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs opinion can be viewed here.)

UW Medicine stated the study tracked the number of abortions performed at the Cedar River Clinics, a network of care sites in Washington, both before and after the 2022 Dobbs decision. Researchers reviewed numbers from Jan. 1, 2017, to June 23, 2022, and compared the totals with June 24, 2022, to July 31, 2023 numbers.

The study found there was a total of 18,379 abortions from January 1, 2017, to July 31, 2023. Out of those abortions, 3,378 occurred after the Dobbs decision.

Of those out-of-state patients, 27% are from Texas, 26% are from Alaska and the rest are largely from Idaho, Louisiana and Florida, according to a news release from UW Medicine. Before Dobbs, 52% of out-of-state abortions were from Alaska, 9% from Montana, 8% from Idaho, 6% from Oregon and 6% from Texas

Washington abortion numbers: Patients traveling from Idaho surge

Of the patients the study followed 31% were white, 23% were Black, 14% were Hispanic, and 13% were Asian.

Study also found delays in care for abortion patients

The study also found an average one-week delay in care for all abortion patients. Those who experienced a significant delay included Latina, white and Black individuals.

“While a week delay does not sound significant, any delays in receiving abortion care are problematic because it adversely affects the health of the pregnant person,” UW Medicine family medicine doctor,  OB-GYN and the paper’s senior author Dr. Emily Godfrey stated, according to UW Medicine.

The study’s lead author and UW graduate student in the Department of Epidemiology Taylor Riley added that delays could lead to larger issues.

“This has concerning health and economic implications because delayed abortion care is associated with increased risk of complications and negative mental health impacts, and later abortion care is more expensive,” she said, as reported by UW Medicine.

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Washington allows abortions up to the point of fetal viability or to protect the health of the pregnant individual. Researchers found post-Dobbs, more abortion patients sought procedural abortions, instead of medication, to ensure they were not pregnant with 100% certainty.

UW Medicine cited the study which found Washington has become “a safe haven for people seeking abortions.” Riley added this could lead to expanding the number of abortion-providing centers and strengthening existing abortion care services within the state.

The University of Washington Population Health Initiative funded the study. Godfrey noted next steps would be to gather information from more clinics.

“The next step is to include more abortion facilities in this study to confirm our findings so that we can continue to provide critical information needed to effectively address health disparities related to abortion care in Washington state,” she said, according to UW Medicine.

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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Washington has become ‘safe haven for people seeking abortions,’ study finds