Longer Wait Times for Abortion Appointments in the US Result in Riskier Procedures, Doctors Warn


The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 has caused significant delays in scheduling abortions in the United States. As a result, doctors and researchers are concerned about the increased risk and complexity of the procedures, especially as pregnancies progress.

Many states have implemented laws that restrict or ban access to abortions, leading to a decrease in clinics offering the procedure. This has resulted in a higher demand for appointments at the remaining clinics. A survey conducted by Middlebury College economics professor Caitlin Myers found that wait times for appointments have increased in several states since Roe v. Wade was overturned. Even as wait times have lessened, other challenges such as travel arrangements, time off work, and child care arrangements further contribute to delays.

These delays can have serious consequences for patients seeking abortions. Some may miss the window for medication abortions, which are not generally offered past 10 to 11 weeks gestation. Additionally, the number of clinics that provide abortions in the second trimester has decreased, making the procedures more costly and complicated as the pregnancy progresses.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, at least 66 clinics in 15 states stopped providing abortions in the 100 days after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. This has led to an increase in the number of people having to travel out of state to access abortion care.

The ongoing Myers Abortion Appointment Availability Survey conducted in September found that 11 states had median appointment wait times of more than five business days, and four states had waits of at least eight business days. The longest wait time was in Iowa, with a wait of 12 business days.

Providers have taken measures to reduce wait times, such as offering more telehealth appointments for medication abortions and extending clinic hours. However, individual challenges like child care problems, canceled flights, and financial concerns continue to pose difficulties for patients.

Travel distances to the nearest clinic have also increased in some states. Research conducted by Caitlin Myers and colleagues found that the average driving distance to the nearest clinic rose substantially in Alabama and Texas after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

These delays and challenges have led to an increase in the number of abortions being performed in the second trimester. While it is difficult to determine the exact impact of delays on the timing of abortions, providers have reported seeing a rise in the number of patients seeking abortions later in pregnancy.

The consequences of these delays are significant for individuals seeking abortions. Jillaine St.Michel, who had to travel out of state for an abortion due to a ban in Idaho, described the time crunch she and her husband experienced. They had to navigate a three-week waiting list and worry about passing abortion time limits.

Clinics have made efforts to streamline appointments and reduce wait times, but addressing the individual challenges faced by patients remains essential. Longer travel distances and financial burdens add additional obstacles for patients seeking abortion care.

The delays and increased risk associated with abortion procedures highlight the urgent need for comprehensive and accessible reproductive healthcare services. Advocacy groups, such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, are actively working to challenge restrictive abortion laws and protect access to safe and timely abortion care.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it