Women in Mississippi's poorest areas want abortions later in pregnancy, research finds

A new study sheds light on the challenges that Mississippi residents already face in accessing abortions

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Women living in Mississippi economically disadvantaged communities who have limited access to OB-GYNs are more likely to have abortions after the first 12 weeks, or later during pregnancy, and have to travel long distances to do so, according to a new study.

The findings, published in the journal Contraception last week, come as the nation awaits a Supreme Court decision on a constitutional ban on Mississippi's abortion after 15 weeks pregnant. The law, which has so far been banned, contravenes almost 50 years of protection for patients to receive preoperative procedures, or the point at which a fetus can live outside the womb, which is now considered to be about 24 weeks old. of pregnancy.

This study sheds light on the situation that the people of Mississippi will face as the court decides. For many Deep South, access to abortion is limited not only by the laws of the land but also by geographical and economic risks.

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Researchers, from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Alabama and the University of California, found that 40 percent of Mississippi abortions in 2018 travel outside the region, which researchers say is a bigger share than the nation. rate.

Those figures could see a dramatic increase if the judges agree with Mississippi's application to rescind or reduce abortion rights guaranteed in Roe v. Wade. That could pave the way for states to make stricter procedures even before pregnancy.

"Visiting Tennessee is already a challenge, but you may not be able to have an abortion in Tennessee or Alabama," said Kari White, lead researcher of the study and associate professor of social work at the University. Texas in Austin.

The White team analyzed data from Mississippi-based abortion clinics and those visiting Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana for services.

Mississippi is one of at least five provinces with only one abortion clinic. And the researchers said that 80 percent of the state's 82 states are more than 50 miles from the provider.

The study found that 17 percent of Mississippi abortions in 2018 did so 12 weeks or later during pregnancy, which is more than the national average of 13 percent.

Researchers have found that people living in economically disadvantaged areas are more likely to have abortions later, within 12 weeks or so. And research suggests that financial need - Mississippi prevents policy coverage - and access to health services that can guarantee pregnancy are fundamental reasons. Saving money for an abortion and travel may delay some options so you can have a pregnancy.

These findings echo the sentiments of long-term abortion rights advocates arguing that having only one clinic in the poorest country of the country has led to access to abortion far beyond their reach.

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Coleman Boyd prays aloud outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization June 28, 2021, Jackson, Miss.Bonnie Jo Mount / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Mississippi requires that people seeking an abortion receive psychological counseling and wait 24 hours before the procedure, which means they should make arrangements for at least two trips to the clinic. Nearby states, including Louisiana and Tennessee, have similar needs. And many trips are expensive. Getting care for late abortion is also very expensive, as the cost of the procedure increases.

Black women, who are twice as poor as white women in the province, are also more likely to end their pregnancies in the last 12 weeks, the study said.

"Persistence of racial segregation may refer to exposure to racism in health care settings and other unresolved barriers to timely care, such as working in unplanned careers or limited flexibility and difficulty in childcare planning, which is common among Mississippi women of color," the study said.

Last year, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, extended its hours to accommodate patients affected by Texas law that broadly restricted the procedure. The challenges of that ban still linger in the courts.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the Mississippi law in December and is expected to deliver its verdict this spring.