For individuals traveling significant distances for time-sensitive abortion care, accurate information about service options and locations is critical, but little is known regarding information barriers that individuals may encounter and strategies for circumventing these barriers.
In early 2015, we conducted in-depth interviews with 29 patients who had traveled for abortion care at six facilities in Michigan and New Mexico. We identified information-related barriers that respondents encountered in understanding their pregnancy options and/or where to obtain an abortion between the time of pregnancy discovery, including any contact with a crisis pregnancy center, to the day of the abortion procedure through inductive and deductive analysis.
We identified two logistical information-related barriers—a general lack of reproductive-related knowledge and unhelpfulness on the part of perceived members of the healthcare community—and one broader barrier of perceived stigma within respondents' narratives. Of the seven respondents who did not encounter a logistical information-related barrier, having previous personal or close experience with abortion and internet savviness were both identified as strategies enabling them to circumvent the barriers.
Lack of clear, easy-to-find and accurate information about abortion services and availability represents a key barrier to obtaining an abortion; health care providers play a crucial role in ensuring pregnant patients' right to informed consent within reproductive health care delivery.
Women's health care providers should provide their patients with the full spectrum of resources and referrals for pregnancy and abortion care; recent federal guidelines proposing to restrict abortion counseling and referral at Title X-funded facilities would only exacerbate the current challenges that pregnant patients encounter when seeking abortion-related information and further decrease linkages to timely, desired abortion care.