Monday, March 4, 2024

In the US the wait for an abortion is getting longer. Doctors fear more risks.

A woman whose fetus had little chance of survival called more than a dozen abortion clinics before finding one to take her, leaving her on a waiting list for weeks. A teenager waited seven weeks to get an abortion because that’s how long it took her mother to get her an appointment. Others seeking the procedure have to wait, having to travel hundreds of kilometers (miles) for care.

Such barriers have become more common since the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, according to doctors and researchers, causing delays that in turn complicate abortions, making them more expensive and, at times, more dangerous, especially when pregnancies progress.

About half of the states in the United States already have laws that prohibit or restrict abortion. Because of this, many clinics do not offer the procedure, which increases the demand for appointments where it is offered.

At various points since Roe, the wait in many states is two to three weeks and some clinics do not have appointments available, according to the results from a periodic survey conducted by the economics professor at Middlebury College’s Caitlin Myers and recently provided The Associated Press. Doctors and researchers say that even as wait times decrease, people also face other challenges, such as planning and paying for travel, taking time off from work and finding childcare.

“All those things can contribute to delays and then it becomes this kind of vicious cycle,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who co-authored a report published a few months ago that compiled the anecdotes of health care providers after the repeal of Roe.

People may miss the opportunity for a medical abortion, which is usually not offered after 10 to 11 weeks of pregnancy. A decreasing number of clinics offer abortion beyond the second trimester of pregnancy, which starts at 13 or 14 weeks. The cost of the procedure also varies, from $800 in the first trimester to $2,000 or more in the second trimester.

“Although abortion is safe in some stages of pregnancy,” with an overall complication rate of 2%, “it becomes more complicated as the pregnancy progresses,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, director of Planned Parenthood in St. Louis Region. “It brings more risks.”

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science and Educational Media Group and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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