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Here’s why Kansas abortions rose 114% in the first half of 2023

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New research estimates Kansas saw one of the most significant increases in abortions in the country, driven by a surge in patients from nearby states.

WICHITA — Kansas abortion providers saw an estimated 4,650 more patients than usual in the first half of 2023, signaling a reshaped post-Roe policy landscape that has sent people traveling across state lines in droves.

That’s according to a new study by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

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In Kansas, there was a 114% increase in abortions during the first six months of 2023 when compared with 2020 — one of the largest percentage increases in the country.

It’s part of a nationwide trend of significant abortion increases in states close to those that have banned abortion in most cases.

“Kansas is situated within a region that has a cluster of total abortion bans — from Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and more,” said Kelly Baden, vice president for public policy at the Guttmacher Institute.

The new numbers align with what the Trust Women clinic in Wichita has been experiencing first-hand, according to communications director Zachary Gingrich-Gaylord. He said between 70% and 75% of the clinic’s patients are now traveling from other states.

“Right now, we’re averaging over or around 5,000 calls a day,” Gingrich-Gaylord said.

Staff aren’t able to answer many of those calls. Other callers, he said, must be directed to other clinics due to a scarcity of available appointments.

Despite two new Kansas clinics opening since Roe was overturned last summer — and existing clinics’ efforts to hire more staff — providers say they don’t have the capacity to meet the flood of demand from out-of-state patients.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates three clinics in Kansas, has said it can only see a small fraction of the people who call seeking abortions.

Still, Kansas didn’t see as large of an increase in abortions as some other states.

Illinois, which served as an abortion destination for people from Missouri and other states even before Roe was overturned, saw an estimated rise of 18,300 abortions in the first part of the year. New Mexico and Colorado, which have both served as abortion destinations for Texas residents, saw increases of around 6,000 patients each.

Baden said relatively restrictive abortion laws in Kansas could play a role in routing some patients to other states.

“[Kansas] has spent years restricting abortion in a variety of ways,” she said. “States like Colorado, New Mexico and Illinois … have explicitly protected the legal right to abortion, and done even more to shore up access through other policies.”

Kansas permits abortions up to 22 weeks of pregnancy. State law requires patients to navigate a variety of regulations that abortion providers are now challenging in court, including a 24-hour waiting period that they argue is medically unnecessary.

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Advocates of the restrictions, including Republican Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, say the measures are needed to ensure women are adequately informed about the risks of having an abortion.

Guttmacher researchers tracked abortion procedures and medication abortions provided through the formal health care system. The estimates do not include self-managed abortions, including people who order abortion pills online.

Data released last year found the number of Kansans ordering medication from one popular overseas pharmacy doubled in the months after Roe was overturned. One explanation, providers said, could be Kansans’ difficulty in obtaining abortions in their home state due to a shortage of appointments.

The Guttmacher study aligns with numbers reported by the Kansas health department earlier this year. That report found that, in 2022, Kansas saw a 57% rise in abortions compared with the year prior. Two-thirds of patients lived in other states.

The Guttmacher study did not study aggregate national changes in abortion numbers. Previous research has indicated that abortion increases in states that still allow it does not make up for the near-total drop off in abortions in more than a dozen states since the fall of Roe.

A report released earlier this year by the Society of Family Planning — a research group that supports abortion rights — found an average of 5,377 fewer abortions per month occurred through the formal health care system between July and December of 2022 compared to the months immediately before Roe was overturned.

Rose Conlon reports on health for KMUW and the Kansas News Service.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

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