Senate Democratic abortion report shows cascading effects of bans, aims to keep pressure on GOP

July 11, 2024

A report from Senate Democratic staff shows the cascading effects of abortion bans across all states, even those where the procedure is still legal. 

The report, led by staff of Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and joined by all the Democratic women senators, as well as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), was based off interviews with more than 80 health care providers and advocates. 

The report comes amid Senate Democrats’ months-long focus on abortion, meant to highlight the differences between the parties on abortion rights and women’s access to health care ahead of the November election.

Democrats want to keep abortion in the front of voters’ minds and show what they say is Republican extremism on the topic. With recent votes on contraception, in vitro fertilization and codifying Roe’s protections, they have attempted to put Republicans in a bind between the wishes of their conservative base and the majority of the U.S. 

The Democratic report echoes findings from other studies by abortion rights research groups, including the Guttmacher Institute and the WeCount project by the Society for Family Planning. 

They all found more women need to travel farther for abortions and are sometimes being airlifted out of state in medical emergencies. OB-GYNs and other health care providers are fleeing abortion ban states, and wait times in protected states are becoming longer. 

“At least 23 million women of reproductive age nationwide live in states with abortion bans. That’s 23 million women who won’t have access to care if they become pregnant and need to have an abortion,” Cantwell said at a press conference Tuesday previewing the report. “Women … are in life-threatening situations and are being denied access to care.” 

Two years after the Supreme Court ended Roe v. Wade, people with wanted pregnancies are leaving abortion ban states to seek care. States that protect abortion are seeing longer wait times, as the limited clinics handle an influx of patients who are forced to travel.  

A Guttmacher report previously found nearly 1 in 5 people traveled out of state in the first half of 2023, compared with 1 in 10 in 2020. 

Clinics in Kansas and Illinois are seeing wait times up to three weeks in some instances, since Illinois has now become one of the closest states for women living in Southern states where abortion is banned.  

Two-week wait times have been reported in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, likely because of Florida’s new six-week ban. 

And even patients who live in-state sometimes need to travel. For example, the Democratic report talked to advocates in Ohio who said patients living in Cincinnati and Cleveland often have to travel to clinics outside their local cities because so many out-of-state patients are coming to Ohio for care.

But as the report noted, flying or even driving for hours on end isn’t always an option, especially for some people of color and low-income individuals.