The term refers to the large areas in the U.S. where abortion facilities do not exist. A new study identified 27 cities as fitting that description.
Market Watch reports the study out of the University of California, San Francisco identified 27 city areas where women must travel at least 100 miles to an abortion facility. Most of the cities are in the midwest, and most are in rural areas – such as Pocatello, Idaho, which has a population of about 50,000.
Other cities include Rapid City, South Dakota; Columbia, Missouri; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Corpus Christi, Texas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Fort Wayne, Indiana.
According to the researchers, the northeast region had the lowest number of “abortion deserts.” Alice Cartwright, lead author of the study, blamed pro-life efforts for closing abortion facilities and cutting off what she seems to believe is an essential health care service for women.
“In the last five to seven years, because of restrictions that have been passed, clinics have been closing and access to abortion has decreased,” Cartwright said.
According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, states have passed 15 pro-life laws so far in 2018 and introduced more than 1,200 others. Abortion activists also complained about how these “abortion deserts” increase travel costs and other expenses related to obtaining an abortion, such as childcare for born children and time off work.
The study, and others like it, have been used to attack pro-lifers, but the picture that they present is very flawed.
The stories emphasize the fact that some women have to travel hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion. However, a closer look at the findings reveals a far more nuanced picture. According to the study, in 2014 the median distance between a woman of childbearing age and the nearest abortion facility was 10.79 miles. Furthermore, while there exists regional variation in travel distances, relatively few women face exceptionally long travel times. For instance, among the 16 U.S. states the study classifies as Southern, the median distance to an abortion facility was just over 27 miles. Additionally, in Texas, where recent abortion clinic closures have received national media attention, the median distance in 2014 was only 17.23 miles.
And as Ken Shepherd at NewsBusters pointed out in response to another study in 2014, these so-called “abortion deserts” have a lot to do with supply and demand. Most are in rural areas where populations frequently are older and more conservative, and fewer women want to abort their unborn babies.
A 2016 analysis by Bloomberg suggested that a number of abortion facilities closed for just that reason in the past five years.
Abortion activists are correct, in one respect, that pro-life efforts are causing abortion facilities to close. But these closures are not hurting women. Instead, it’s women themselves who, thanks to the education and support provided by pro-lifers, are rejecting the violence of abortion.
And that, according to many citizens of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a reason to celebrate. This weekend, pro-lifers plan to host a special celebration to commemorate the 25th anniversary of being an abortion-free city. The last abortion facility to close in the city now is the home to a pro-life pregnancy center that offers women and their babies true support.