In his first post-election interview, President-elect Donald Trump said on “60 Minutes” that should Roe v. Wade (the landmark Supreme Court decision that established women’s constitutional right to an abortion) ever be overturned, the question of whether abortion is legal would be settled in the states.
And if a woman happened to live in an area that stopped recognizing her right to abortion services?
Well, then, she’d simply “have to go to another state” to access care, Trump said. Here are a few reasons that is a terrible “solution.”
In many parts of the country, it’s REALLY HARD to get an abortion.
“The current lay of the land is that in the northeast and along the west coast ― with a few places in the middle of the country, like Illinois ― access to abortion has been somewhat protected,” Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager with the Guttmacher Institute told The Huffington Post. “Around the rest of the country, access is, mostly, much more limited.” If Roe v. Wade were overturned, and if certain states banned abortion, the country would have a much more bifurcated system than it already does, she said.
And make no mistake: the number of clinics already varies wildly. Many states have only a handful of abortion clinics, which are under near-constant threat from new legislative restrictions.
Other states ― like North Dakota and Missouri, for example ― have only one (one!) abortion provider. So the notion that women could just hop over state lines to get an abortion is preposterous. In much of the country, there would be nowhere even remotely close by for them to go.
It costs women time. And money that many of them just don’t have.
“An abortion [typically] costs around $500 and many people cannot come up with that kind of money immediately,” said Nash. “If women have to travel, then they have other issues, like needing to take time off from work and arrange for childcare, because we know that 60 percent of women who have abortions already have a child.” Women may lose wages when they take that time off, she added, and then have to pay for a hotel or a plane/train ticket on top of the procedure itself.
For a self-proclaimed “billionaire” like Donald Trump, those costs may seem insignificant, but for women who need abortion services ― nearly half of whom live below the federal poverty level ― they’re not. In one study, half of women seeking an abortion had out-of-pocket costs that were equivalent to more than one-third of their monthly personal income. When you close more clinics, it only becomes more unaffordable.
“We have seen how unconstitutional laws that force women to travel to other states for abortion care make this care essentially unobtainable, and it would be unconscionable to erect even more stringent barriers. President-elect Trump’s attack on fundamental rights is unacceptable,” Dr. Willie Parker, board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement on Monday.
Take Texas. After the passage of HB2 ― the restrictive law that was at the center of the Supreme Court’s most recent major abortion case ― resulted in the closure of more than half of that state’s abortion clinics, women had to travel hundreds of miles to get abortion care. They also had to spend hundreds of dollars on out-of-pocket for expenses beyond the procedure, covering hotels and lost wages.
Another issue? When clinics close, as they did in Texas, women face longer wait times from when they first call the clinics to when they’re actually able to be seen by a doctor. “A lot of abortion clinics are not open from 8 to 5 every day,” said Nash. “They may be doing procedures only one day a week.” So again, the idea that it’s relatively easy to access abortion care is not rooted in reality.
Trump is right about one thing, though.
Despite the fact that Vice President-elect Mike Pence has declared his intent to consign Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history, Trump was correct when he told “60 Minutes” that we’ve “got a long way to go” before Roe v. Wade is overturned.
“It’s a threat for sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s happening tomorrow,” said Nash. Though the Court recently reaffirmed women’s constitutional right to abortion with its decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in June 2016, there is currently only one opening on the Supreme Court that the President-elect will get to fill. However, as The New York Times points out, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83 and Stephen Breyer is 78, so it’s not unimaginable that he might have more appointments and could shift the balance of the court for decades.
Given how much he has flip-flopped on abortion, it’s hard to know whether Trump was being flippant on “60 Minutes” or whether he simply doesn’t get it. Either way, telling to women to just go to another state is not a good enough answer.