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Why an economics professor mapped all the abortion providers across the country


The number of Americans who have to travel 200 miles or more to reach an abortion provider has jumped in the past year. That's since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and 14 states banned abortion. NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin talked about the growing distances with an economics professor who's mapped abortion providers throughout the country.

SELENA SIMMONS-DUFFIN, BYLINE: You heard that right - an economics professor.

CAITLIN MYERS: I came to it as a labor economist interested in gender differentials in labor market outcomes.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: That is the professor Caitlin Myers of Middlebury College in Vermont.

MYERS: You cannot study gender differences in labor market outcomes without studying the effects of family formation and childbearing on women's careers.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: And you can't study that without getting into reproductive policy, she says. A few years ago, Myers wanted to see how the opening and closing of abortion facilities affected how far people had to go to reach one. When the nearest facility gets further away, fewer people can get abortions, usually because it's too expensive to travel. Myers mapped every abortion facility she could find, going back more than a decade, and she keeps her map up to date. She says there have been dramatic changes in the past year since the Supreme Court's decision.

MYERS: The states that have experienced huge declines in access are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma - Idaho also, I would say. A lot of driving if you're in Idaho.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Of course, distance doesn't always limit access since now people have the option of getting abortion pills through the mail. But now that could be curtailed. There's a federal case out of Texas challenging mifepristone, one of the two drugs that's used for medication abortion. The case is expected to be argued at the Supreme Court in the fall. That decision could meaningfully limit access to medication abortion, which accounts for more than half of abortions nationally.

MYERS: I don't know what'll happen, but it could be bigger than Dobbs.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: And the map of abortion access in the country might change dramatically yet again.

Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR News.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Selena Simmons-Duffin reports on health policy for NPR.