The Guardian, a British daily newspaper with international circulation and a U.S. edition, featured Choices’ Out-of-Town Program in its July 4th article about women traveling across state lines for abortions in New York. The article, by Miranda Bryant, began with an account of a woman who had just arrived from Montana for an abortion at Choices:
When Courtney Buckman made the difficult decision to have an abortion, the obvious solution should have been to go to her nearest abortion clinic in Montana.
In fact the most practical option for Buckman was to have the procedure nearly 2,000 miles away from home – in New York.
Buckman is one of a growing number of women who are travelling to New York for abortions amid tightening restrictions and access to services across the country.
Under the Trump administration, 27 abortion bans have been signed so far this year across 12 US states – including in Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri and Mississippi, according to the Guttmacher Institute. As a result, Choices Women’s Medical Centre in Jamaica, Queens, has already seen a significant rise in women coming to the centre for abortions from the affected states.
“It was actually just last week that I found out … it was six weeks along,” said Buckman, 24, at Choices, as her three-year-old daughter Belle watched a film on her phone nearby.
“And because I do have another child, there’s so much interplay with my personal situation because back in Montana where I live, it’s super expensive … Everything else that could possibly come with having another child at this specific moment just isn’t a situation that I could actually possibly handle. Right now I’m already leaning a lot on my family because I am a single parent.”
While she could have had a legal abortion in her home state, a shortage of clinics would have meant a six-hour round trip on a weekday, which could have potentially cost Buckman, who works in customer service, her job. Fortunately, she was able to get an appointment at a clinic during a trip she had already planned to New York…She said the idea that male politicians – who lead the majority of the states which have enacted anti-abortion measures this year – should be allowed to determine the fate of women and their bodies is “ridiculous”.
“Unless they want to have a baby and be able to give birth to a child, then I don’t think they should really have a say in what I can and cannot be able to do. Personally, in my situation, it’s not me trying to be selfish, it’s me trying to be able to still provide for what I have right now,” she added.
Finance is the biggest issue for women seeking abortions, said Choices’ patient financial counsellor, Angelica Din. But the clinic goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure nobody is turned away – liaising with multiple organisations, including NYAAF, to find the funding for everything from accommodation to medical treatment and travel. Sometimes Merle Hoffman, president of Choices, will even fund them herself.
Din said: “[I try] really hard to get it for them because it’s a hard decision for them and it’s not easy.”
A recent patient cried when Din told her that she had found funding for the full $2,600 cost of her procedure.
“I make sure I find funding in whatever way … I haven’t had one patient yet not come in because they didn’t have the funds,” she said.
Hoffman, who founded the clinic in 1971, said the increase in women coming to New York for abortions reminds her of before Roe v Wade, when women arrived from around the country for abortions.
“[In] 1970 there were about five different states that decriminalised abortion, New York was one of them. So what happened between 70 and 73, thousands and thousands of women were coming into New York … it’s really a repeat of those days,” said Hoffman, who has a giant coat hanger in her office that she took to a pro-choice protest at St Patrick’s Cathedral, in Manhattan, in 1989.
“It’s as if to say, well you know you had almost half a century of the ability to decide your own autonomy and your own motherhood and its timing, but now you know we’re taking that power back. And believe me it’s a power struggle, that’s what it is.”
Before the recent wave of restrictions, which she said will affect the poor and women of colour the most, Choices would get four or five out-of-state patients coming for abortions per week. But now the figure is between seven and nine.