Health Care

Out-of-state abortions spiked in Massachusetts following Dobbs ruling: study

The number of out-of-state travelers seeking abortions in Massachusetts increased by an estimated 37.5 percent in the four months following the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

A new rigorous analysis, published Wednesday by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, reviewed 45,797 abortion care records at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, which provides more than 50 percent of the abortions in the state. The analysis included records from January 2018 to October 2022 — four months after the Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization ruling rescinded the federal right to an abortion.

The researchers closely analyzed the data from before the ruling — accounting for a variety of factors including seasonal changes and the COVID-19 pandemic — and determined the expected numbers for the four months after the ruling, had Dobbs not been a factor. 

Using January 2018 to June 2022 as the baseline period, researchers found that the observed number of total abortions in the four-month time frame exceeded the estimated number by 6.2 percent, equivalent to an estimated 190 abortions more than expected without the ruling.

There was an estimated 37.5 percent increase in the actual number of abortions for out-of-state travelers than what would have been expected, equivalent to an estimated 45 additional abortions, when using the same baseline period to track trends, according to the research.

“A major strength of our study is the large dataset of pre-Dobbs abortions,” Elizabeth Janiak, a corresponding author of the study, said in the press release. “We used rigorous statistical modeling to understand how the number of abortions in the four months after Dobbs compared to the expected counts we predicted. Because of the large historical dataset, we know that these are real changes and not chance fluctuations.”

There was a similar increase in the number of out-of-state travelers receiving funding from charitable organizations for abortion care. While an estimated percentage of in-state residents receiving abortion funding increased from 1.9 percent to 3.1 percent, the estimate of out-of-state travelers receiving funding increased from 8.4 percent to 18.3 percent.

“Abortion costs are already well above the average out-of-pocket medical expenditures for reproductive age females in the United States,” Janiak said in the press release. “In the post-Dobbs context, interstate travel costs are even higher.”

As states continue to impose new restrictions on abortion access, patients have increasingly traveled to other states to get the care they seek.

This study, the authors said, suggested that people are not just seeking care from states that they border. Massachusetts does not border any state with an abortion ban. 

“In states like Massachusetts, we know the state government as well as advocates and healthcare providers are very invested in ensuring abortion access,” Janiak said in the press release. “We hope the data from this study serves as an example of how states across the country that share this commitment can monitor the trends in and needs of interstate travelers.”

Tags abortion abortion access Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization massachusetts Roe v. Wade