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A year after the Dobbs abortion ruling, the impact nationwide has been dramatic

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

Tomorrow marks one year since the Supreme Court overturned decades of abortion rights precedent.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization has had significant impact all across the country.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Sarah McCammon joins us now with more.

Good morning, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Good morning, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: So it's much harder now to get an abortion in many states than it was a year ago before Dobbs.

MCCAMMON: Right.

ELLIOTT: Give us a lay of the land. How have things shifted? Who's seeing the biggest impact from the landmark decision?

MCCAMMON: Yeah. I mean, things have shifted dramatically. You know, a year ago today, abortion was, at least to some extent, legal nationwide. Now, Texas and Oklahoma had both pretty recently implemented unique abortion bans designed to get around existing precedent, but it was legal up to about six weeks even in those states. And then, Debbie, after the Dobbs decision, we saw a cascade of states implementing abortion restrictions very quickly, most of those in the Midwest and South. I spoke with Kelly Baden with the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Here's how she summed up the current situation.

KELLY BADEN: We now have entire swaths of the country where abortion is not legal and really difficult for somebody to get because they're forced to cross multiple state lines to get to a clinic in a state that has maintained legality.

MCCAMMON: And just to look at some of the numbers, more than a dozen states have banned most or all abortions, a few more prohibited after 12 or 15 weeks, and more bans appear to be on the way. Florida, for example, has a six-week ban tied up in court, at least for now. North Carolina has a 12-week ban that's expected to take effect soon.

ELLIOTT: Well, with all these bans in effect, what does patient access actually look like on the ground?

MCCAMMON: Yeah. A lot of people are just traveling a lot farther. A researcher at Middlebury College says Americans, on average, now have to travel more than three times farther than they did one year ago to get to a facility that provides abortions. The distances are often much greater for people in regions like the Southeast with so many abortion bans. And as a result, there's been a huge increase in calls to organizations that provide funding and assistance to people who cross state lines. Chelsea Williams-Diggs is with one of them, the New York Abortion Access Fund, and she says her organization has heard from people in 29 states and Washington, D.C.

CHELSEA WILLIAMS-DIGGS: When abortion is banned or restricted in one state, the entire country, the entire ecosystem of access and care feels it.

MCCAMMON: So not only are patients feeling the strain, providers are, too. And that's especially in places where neighboring states have abortion bans. Many are struggling to keep up with the demand, and that's for both surgical procedures and abortion pills, which, of course, is the other big fight. Pills are now the dominant way that people get abortions in the U.S. Abortion rights opponents are trying to force the Food and Drug Administration to take the gold-standard abortion pill, mifepristone, off the market through a major case that's playing out in federal court. That case could have massive implications for access potentially in all 50 states.

ELLIOTT: There are states, however, that are trying to expand access, right? What does that look like?

MCCAMMON: Right. Illinois and New Mexico, for example, are becoming hubs for abortion access. We've seen some new clinics opening up or moving there. About a dozen states have passed what are known as shield laws to protect patients and providers from out-of-state lawsuits or prosecution. And others are setting aside public funding to expand abortion access. Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, says the amount of state and local funding for these efforts has more than tripled since Dobbs, and it's now well over 200 million.

ANDREA MILLER: So when you look at that incredible exponential increase, it really shows the ways in which cities and states can get creative and say, we're going to find new ways to address the barriers that now exist.

MCCAMMON: So there's been a dramatic shift in the past year, and we haven't even gotten into the politics. But one thing that's held pretty steady is the fact that most Americans have generally supported Roe v. Wade.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Sarah McCammon.

Thanks so much.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Debbie Elliott
NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.