Pregnant people have traveled across state and national borders for the purpose of abortion since at least the 1960s. Scholarship has robustly documented the financial and logistical costs associated with travel, but less work has examined the emotional costs of abortion travel. We investigate whether abortion travel has emotional costs and, if so, how they come about.
We conducted in-depth interviews with 30 women who had to travel across state borders in the United States for abortion care because of their gestation. We analyzed findings thematically.
Interviewees described having to travel to obtain abortion care as emotionally burdensome, causing distress, stress, anxiety, and shame. Because they had to travel, they were compelled to disclose their abortion to others and obtain care in an unfamiliar place and away from usual networks of support, which engendered emotional costs. Additionally, travel induced feelings of shame and exclusion because it stemmed from a law-based denial of in-state abortion care, which some experienced as marking them as deviant or abnormal.
People who have to travel for abortion care experience emotional costs alongside financial and logistical costs. The circumstances of that travel—specifically, being forced to travel because of legal restriction and service unavailability—are foundational to the ensuing emotional burdens. Findings add to the emerging literature on how laws and other structures produce the stigmatization of abortion at interpersonal and individual levels.