Kate Cox recently made the decision to leave her home state of Texas for a possibly lifesaving abortion amid a highly publicized legal battle to have the procedure locally. But Cox is hardly the first woman to feel forced to do so; since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in June 2022, thousands of women have traveled hundreds of miles for abortions as states restrict reproductive rights — and many are sharing their stories of what that experience is like.
According to the latest data from research group the Guttmacher Institute, over 92,000 people in the U.S. traveled to other states in the first half of 2023 to receive abortion care — more than double during a similar period in 2020. Another recent study found that “two of every five American women do not have access to an abortion facility within a 30-minute drive, and one in four lack access within a 90-minute drive.”
Meanwhile, efforts are underway to block pregnant people from traveling out of state for an abortion, with some conservative activists even pushing for the implementation of “trafficking” laws to punish those attempting to get the procedure in reproductive rights-friendly states.
Whether they’re trying to end an unwanted pregnancy or making a difficult decision after a fatal diagnosis, women who have shared their stories with news outlets say the process to obtain an abortion is difficult, expensive and time-consuming. Here are just a few accounts from real women in the U.S. describing what it’s like to travel out of state for an abortion.
From Louisiana to Oregon: ‘It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through.’
Victoria (who asked to withhold her last name for fear of backlash against her and her family) shared her story with CNN of traveling across the country to get a medication abortion for an unwanted pregnancy.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through, from the moment of discovering that I was pregnant at age 45 to actually having to have to take time off work, travel across the country, do a meeting with a doctor and then take the pills and then skedaddle back home and then go to work like nothing had happened,” she said.
Every state adjoining her home state of Louisiana had similarly restrictive laws regarding abortion, so she asked a friend in Oregon if she could stay with her for a few days — taking two flights and traveling a total of eight hours before landing in Portland.
“Once I saw that Oregon was so, so protective of reproductive rights, I said, ‘Why would I think about going anywhere else?’” she said. “The second I got the definitive pregnancy result, I was like, ‘OK, let’s book a flight to Oregon. When can we do this?’”
Victoria took two medications — mifepristone and misoprostol — before boarding her flight home. She says the choice to get an abortion wasn’t a difficult one to make.
“I had this feeling that I should be having some kind of deep, psychological moment of reckoning or something, but I didn’t really feel that,” she said. “I’ve never wanted to have a kid. I wasn’t torn about this decision.”
Fleeing to North Carolina: ‘It’s just hard to get here.’
Earlier this year, the New York Times reported on the influx of pregnant people traveling to North Carolina as neighboring states clamped down on abortion rights. At the time, abortion was legal in the state for up to 20 weeks, but most abortions are now illegal past 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood estimated that more than a third of its patients in North Carolina are from out of state, and there were also a growing number of no-shows.
“It’s just hard to get here,” said Dr. Jonas Swartz, a Duke Health obstetrician and gynecologist. “It’s a lot. You’ve got to arrange child care. If someone gets sick, if you lose transportation, you may just not be able to get here on the day you thought you were going to.”
Journals in one clinic’s recovery room included entries about acquiring an abortion out of state. “I am here from Johnson City, TN (4 hour drive) due to my state not providing the right to an abortion,” one patient wrote. “I have a 3 yr. old son, and am just now to a point in my life where I am stable enough to take care of us comfortably. Another child at this time is just not in the cards for us.”
From Louisiana to New York: ‘I was carrying my baby to bury my baby. So that’s why we made the decision.’
Nancy Davis of Louisiana was 10 weeks pregnant when she found out the fetus had acrania, an abnormality where the fetus’s skull doesn’t form inside the womb. The condition is lethal, with the baby dying shortly after birth. Still, Davis’s doctor in Louisiana, scared of prosecution or being fined, refused to perform an abortion because the fetus still had a heartbeat and Davis’s life wasn’t endangered by continuing the pregnancy.
At 16 weeks pregnant, Davis was able to acquire an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic in New York. Walking into the clinic over a month after receiving the diagnosis “felt horrible,” Davis said in an interview with WWNO. “I mean, it was devastating. You know, it was traumatizing to even make that decision as a parent, you know?”
But Davis said she and her partner felt that traveling out of state to have the procedure was the best decision for their baby and themselves. “The only thing that came to my mind whenever we assessed the situation and analyzed it, was that I was carrying my baby to bury my baby. So that’s why we made the decision.”
From Texas to Colorado: ‘I have a lot of anger towards what happened to me and what I was made to do.’
After two years of IVF and fertility treatments, Taylor and Travis of Austin, Texas (who asked us not to use their last name) told FOX 7 Austin they were excited to learn that Taylor was pregnant. But at 17 weeks, the couple learned that the fetus had an encephalocele — a sac-like structure that protrudes from the skull — and were told the baby either wouldn’t survive the pregnancy or would die painfully hours after birth. Because Taylor’s life wasn’t in danger, she wasn’t able to get an abortion in Texas, and the couple traveled to Colorado for the procedure.
“We were left completely on our own,” Taylor said. “We had to be in public in Colorado and, like, go to get food. We were in a hotel. It just was very bizarre to have to go through the worst thing in your life publicly.”
They also weren’t able to use their medical insurance for the procedure due to Texas’s strict abortion laws. “The clinic said that they just have too much trouble processing it. So we had to pay out of pocket for everything,” said Taylor.
She added: “It’s a lot of grief. I also am very angry. I have a lot of anger towards what happened to me and what I was made to do. You do feel like kind of like you did something shady on the black market — when you just got health care.”
From Louisiana to ‘up north’: ‘I felt incredible relief when I finally walked through the doors of the clinic.’
Anna (who asked not to use her last name for fear of legal retaliation by Louisiana officials) shared a firsthand account with NPR of waiting weeks for an abortion before she was finally able to acquire one in another state “up north.”
Days before Roe v. Wade was overturned, Anna found out she was pregnant with an “unplanned and unwanted” pregnancy, and rushed to make an appointment at one of Louisiana’s only remaining clinics. She also made a backup appointment three weeks away — the earliest spot available — at a clinic in the state she grew up in.
The days after Roe fell were followed by a confusing back-and-forth of trigger laws and court injunctions; unsure whether she or the doctor who performed her abortion might face prosecution, she ended up canceling her appointment in Louisiana and traveling out of state for an abortion.
“Three weeks after my original appointment in Louisiana, I was able to fly to another state, stay with my family and receive a surgical abortion,” Anna shared. “I felt incredible relief when I finally walked through the doors of the clinic. It felt like a fortress of safety. The women who staffed the clinic — from the people behind the desk at intake, to the nurses, to the doctors, to the volunteers — were so incredibly gentle, warm and kind.”
Anna added: “I think about how different my experience would have been if I had been able to make an appointment with my trusted primary care doctor, in my own hometown and receive the care I needed within days of needing it. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”