On March 2, hundreds of public health advocates gathered outside the Supreme Court to support the plaintiffs in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. Photo by Lindsey Wahowiak/The Nation's Health

On March 2, hundreds of public health advocates gathered outside the Supreme Court to support the plaintiffs in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Photo by Lindsey Wahowiak/The Nation’s Health

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The case challenges a Texas law that places medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers and has forced the closure of many clinics in the state, limiting access to reproductive health services. According to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health, women seeking abortions whose nearest clinic closed as a result of the law traveled farther and had greater out-of-pocket expenses than women whose nearest clinic stayed open.

Researchers surveyed Texas-resident women in mid-2014 seeking abortions in 10 Texas facilities, including both Planned Parenthood–affiliated clinics and independent providers that performed more than 1,500 abortions in 2013 and provided procedures up to a gestational age of at least 14 weeks from last menstrual period. They compared indicators of burden for women whose nearest clinic in 2013 closed and those whose nearest clinic remained open.

Results showed that women whose nearest clinic closed as a result of House Bill 2 had to travel 85 miles one-way on average, compared with 22 miles for women whose nearest clinic did not close. Further, more women whose nearest clinic closed traveled more than 50 miles, had to stay overnight, incurred out-of-pocket expenses greater than $100, had a frustrated demand for a medication abortion and reported that it was somewhat or very hard to get to the clinic.

“In a large state, closures of abortion clinics following the implementation of a Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider law can impose a substantial burden on women seeking abortion care by making them travel farther, making them spend more time and money and causing them to undergo a different kind of procedure from the one they prefer,” the authors explained. “These burdens are in addition to any increase in wait times or costs that may be spread evenly over all women seeking abortion care and those that result in making legal abortion an unattainable option for some women.”

APHA has voiced its support of reversing the law in two amicus briefs, arguing that the law causes “serious harms for individual women and their families” and “real threats to the overall public health.” A decision in the case is expected in June.

For more about this study and the latest public health research, visit the American Journal of Public Health online. And check out APHA’s reproductive and sexual health topics page to learn more about the latest news, resources and advocacy on this issue.