The highly restrictive abortion ban that went into effect in Texas on Wednesday will force tens of thousands of people who need the procedure to travel outside the state for care. For many of them, that journey will be prohibitively expensive.
Traveling out of state for an abortion, which any Texan who needs one after six weeks of pregnancy now must do, adds hundreds of dollars to a procedure that already cost up to $1,500. In Texas, neither public nor private insurers may cover abortions, forcing people to pay out of pocket for the procedure unless they’ve purchased a separate abortion insurance policy.
Fund Texas Choice (FTC), a group founded in 2013 to raise money to help Texans with abortion-related travel costs, is preparing to meet a surge in demand for out-of-state travel help now that the Texas ban has gone into effect.
“If someone can’t afford their abortion, they can’t get to their abortion,” the organization’s co-executive director Anna Rupani said Wednesday. Last year, FTC helped 330 patients with the costs of transportation, lodging, food, medication and child care, she said, alongside assistance with logistics, such as finding and booking appointments. As of July of this year, FTC had already helped 270 patients.
While abortion travel costs within the state average $300, Rupani said, out-of-state trips typically run at least $800.
It’s not always as simple as traveling one state over. Of the four states bordering Texas ― Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico ― three require anyone seeking an abortion to sit through mandatory counseling and then go through a wait period. In Louisiana, that’s 24 hours, but in Arkansas and Oklahoma, it’s 72 hours. Those three states also ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, putting an additional time constraint on anyone traveling there to have an abortion.
Those wait times mean anyone traveling there for an abortion will need to spend at least one to three nights out of state, likely adding hundreds of more dollars to their lodging budget and other costs associated with being out of town. The average hotel cost for patients they help is $245 per night, FTC said.
When someone seeking an abortion arrives at their destination, there’s no guarantee of an appointment available that day ― potentially adding days to their trip. Depending on the type of abortion procedure performed, patients may be advised to rest and not resume normal activity until the next day, which would add at least another night to the journey.
New Mexico doesn’t have any major abortion restrictions, but to get to Albuquerque ― where most of the state’s few abortion providers are located ― from Central Texas would take about 10 hours behind the wheel. Safely driving that distance could require paying for an overnight stay on the way there and back.
For many Texans, those days traveling and waiting for an abortion will also mean days going without pay.
Then there’s the cost of fueling up the car for a long drive. Last month the Guttmacher Institute, which reports data on abortion access around the world, found that the Texas ban would increase the average one-way driving distance to an abortion clinic from 12 miles to 248 miles, adding an average of 3.5 hours of driving each way if traveling nonstop at 70 miles an hour.
“Just looking at the average increase in distance alone,” the report found, “someone making minimum wage ($7.25 an hour in Texas) would have to put more than 3.5 hours’ worth of earnings toward the cost of gas to cover the additional one-way cost of travel (for a car that gets 25 miles per gallon, with gas prices about $2.80 a gallon, as they were in Texas in early August).
“New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Louisiana are all going to be getting swamped with Texans.”
Flying out of state and back, especially on a quickly approaching date, would likely cost hundreds of dollars.
States near Texas will likely soon be overwhelmed by patients, Rupani said.
“New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Louisiana are all going to be getting swamped with Texans,” she said.
“We’ve been in constant communication with providers, other abortion funds and financial support boards in those locations to really understand if they can meet these needs,” she added. “And they said they will meet the need as much as they can, but they know that there’s no way that they’ll be able to meet every Texan that walks through their door.”
FTC just made travel arrangements for a Texas resident to get an abortion in Seattle, Rupani said. That’s literally the farthest possible U.S. destination from Houston, which is Texas’ biggest city.
That’s “how vast and how dire the circumstances are right now,” Rupani said.
Given the population spread in Texas, most residents who make their own travel arrangements will likely travel to Louisiana for their abortions, Guttmacher spokesperson Lauren Cross said. On top of the required counseling and wait period complicating the process, the current devastation from Hurricane Ida could prolong time spent traveling and seeking care.
“Louisiana is in full recovery mode after Hurricane Ida, which means those clinics may have limited or no capacity to handle an influx of out-of-state patients,” she said.
“So for the 60% of Texans who might otherwise find their closest clinic in Louisiana, they may have to drive even farther, if they’re able to travel for care, which is logistically fraught and expensive,” she said. “And, unfortunately, the next nearest clinic doesn’t mean much if you can’t make an appointment there.”