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Can I change state if I want to abort and what requirements are needed?

The reversal of Roe v Wade has sent shockwaves through US society and will force some women to travel hundreds of miles for the procedure.

Can you travel to another state where abortion is legal?
Anadolu AgencyGetty

The Supreme Court has officially reversed Roe v Wade, the 49-year-old precedent which has guaranteed abortion as a constitutional right in the United States.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court majority, wrote that the 1973 ruling “must be overruled” because the legal reasoning was “egregiously wrong.” The nine-member court voted 5-4 in favour of removing Roe v Wade, as had been indicated in a leaked Supreme Court draft decision in early May.

In response to the verdict, 26 states are expected to introduce, or have already introduced, legislation which will make abortion illegal in their states.

However there is nothing stopping people from travelling to another state, where abortion is legal, to get the healthcare that they need. There are no extra requirements to be fulfilled, aside from the regulations imposed by the state where the procedure is to be carried out. A number of major companies have confirmed that they will cover expenses for workers who need to leave their home state to get an abortion.

Kavanaugh reiterates the right to travel for abortion

Justice Brett Kavanaugh was one of the five Supreme Court members who sided with the majority view that there was no constitutional basis for Roe v Wade. In filing his concurring opinion Kavanaugh made clear that he believes that the decision on abortion rights rests with each individual state, meaning that states cannot interfere with abortions offered outside of their jurisdiction.

“May a state bar a resident of that state from traveling to another state to obtain an abortion?” Kavanaugh wrote. “In my view, the answer is no based on the constitutional right to interstate travel.”

He continued by saying that he did not see any constitutional basis for liability or punishment for an abortion which took place before the ruling was announced on Friday. He described this, and the issue of travelling to another state for the procedure, as questions that “are not especially difficult as a constitutional matter.”

Huge travel distances for abortion make it impossible for low-income groups

While the prospect of travelling to get the treatment may seem to offer an alternative for women in states where abortion is illegal, the reality is far trickier.

The Guttmacher Institute, a leading research group advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights, has found that 26 states in the United States are certain or very likely to make abortion illegal now that Roe v Wade has been overturned. The political split of the country means that many of the states intent on banning abortion are located close together, predominately in the southern-most parts of the country.

This means that those needing the procedure may not simply be able to travel to a neighbouring state and will likely have to travel further afield for something that had been a constitutional right for five decades.

A report from NBC News found that, once the expected abortion bans have been introduced, someone living in Salt Lake City would need to travel 335 mile to the nearest legal clinic in Colorado. This is a six-hour drive, but for those without a car the distance is a 19-hour journey on public transport. The time and expense of such a journey will make it impossible for poorer people to afford the treatment, a issue that is expected to disproportionately affect people of colour.


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