The Cost of Driving to an Abortion

On top of the clinic fees, the hotel, and the time away from work, Texas's size would make gas money an additional hurdle if its harsh abortion law goes into effect.

Cost of driving to one of the eight clinics that would remain if HB2 went into effect. [Full size]. (Jordan Schermerhorn)

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked a tough Texas abortion law and allowed 13 of the state's abortion clinics to re-open. If the law had been allowed to go into effect, only eight clinics would have remained in the state, all of them in major cities. The law's fate is still up in the air, though, so the re-opened clinics may ultimately be forced to close again.

The law, HB2, required clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers and providers to gain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Most of the state's clinics don't meet those requirements and never will—either because it's prohibitively expensive to do the renovations or because there aren't enough hospitals in their vicinity.

In response to the Supreme Court's recent move, Greg Abbott, Texas’s attorney general and the state's Republican candidate for governor, defended the law by saying that “it is undisputed that the vast majority of Texas residents (more than 83 percent) still live within a comfortable driving distance (150 miles)”

That distance may be "comfortable" by some definitions, but it's also expensive.

In a Medium post that opens with, "My home state is large in a way that boggles the unacquainted," Jordan Schermerhorn points out that the sheer size of Texas adds up when it comes to gas money. Above is a graphic Schermerhorn made showing the cost to drive to each of the eight abortion clinics that would have remained in the state, had HB2 gone into effect. The data are from Fund Texas Women, an abortion fund, and a 2008 miles-per-gallon estimate for a new vehicle.

Getting to the nearest abortion clinic from Texas's southernmost tip, for example, would require a round trip of 1,000 miles and $151 in gas. Even in central Texas, the nearest abortion clinic would have been 400 miles and $50 away.

That's before you include the cost of a hotel (Texas has a 24-hour waiting period), and the $300–$950 for the procedure itself. To earn $151, a woman would have to work at a minimum-wage job in Texas for more than half a week.

And it's not just Texas: Nearly half the states have recently passed laws that force abortion clinics to meet new building codes or close their doors. As clinics close under these restrictions—more than 50 have since 2010—the cost of driving to the remaining providers will likely creep up further.

"That’s what people don’t get," Dalton Johnson, an abortion provider and owner of Alabama Women’s Center, in Huntsville, told Slate. "Not only are you driving 200 miles one way, but you have to do it twice, or even three times if you go for a follow-up appointment ...With a 48-hour waiting period in Alabama, you can’t even stay overnight."

The legal battle is far from over. Now, the Texas law awaits another decision from the Fifth Circuit, and it may go on to the Supreme Court from there. If it's ultimately upheld, this chart shows just how much more women would have to save up just to reach their nearest clinic—before the termination procedure even starts.