This post is from Dr Sydney Calkin of the University of Durham
Abortion access is fundamentally geographical: looking at abortion as an issue of space and power can help us to understand the continuities between contexts where abortion is illegal and where it is legal, as well as the gaps between abortion law and access in practice. In this post, I draw on a geographical approach to abortion to make two arguments: first, spatial strategies to restrict abortion access often take the form of regulation of medical care that do not directly attack the legality of abortion but make it practically unavailable by making willing doctors scarce or distant. Second, medication abortion is transforming this landscape by challenging medical control over abortion and is prompting the state to respond to re-assert control.
Laws that ban abortion do not operate in a geographical vacuum: in a world of increased mobility, low-cost travel, and cross-border social networks, women who live in states with highly restrictive abortion laws can (and do) access abortion by going abroad. In Ireland, for example, 9-10 Irish women still travel to Englandevery day in pursuit of abortion access. Irish women are dependent on medical services in England, so that changes in healthcare availability in England has serious consequences for non-residents. The reliance on abortion trails is not limited to inter-state travel between states with different abortion laws; it happens as well within states where abortion access is deliberately constrained and made scarce. In places where there is legal provision for abortion, opponents of abortion rights deliberately create extra-legal obstacles that widen the spaces between women seeking abortion and doctors willing to provide it. Geography becomes a useful tool for widening and compounding inequalities to access and making abortion access dependent on a woman’s mobility, as a factor of her wealth or migration status. Continue reading “#abortiontravel Sydney Calkin on “The Changing Geographies of Abortion Access””