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Geographic disparities in disruptions to abortion care in Louisiana at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.contraception.2022.07.012
ObjectivesPrior research identified a significant decline in the number of abortions in Louisiana at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as increases in second-trimester abortions and decreases in medication abortions. This study examines how service disruptions in particular areas of the state disparately affected access to abortion care based on geography.
Study designWe collected monthly service data from Louisiana's abortion clinics (January 2018-May 2020) and conducted mystery client calls to determine whether clinics were scheduling appointments at pandemic onset (April-May 2020). We used segmented regression to assess whether service disruptions modified the main pandemic effects on the number, timing, and type of abortions using stratified models and interaction terms. Additionally, we calculated the median distance that Louisiana residents traveled to the clinic where they obtained care.
ResultsFor residents whose closest clinic was consistently scheduling appointments at the onset of the pandemic, the number of monthly abortions did not change (IRR = 1.07, 95% CI: 0.84-1.36). For those whose closest clinic services were disrupted, the number of monthly abortions decreased by 46% (IRR = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.45-0.65). Similarly, increases in second-trimester abortions and decreases in medication abortions were concentrated in areas where residents experienced service disruptions (AOR = 2.25, 95% CI: 1.21-4.56 and AOR = 0.59, 95% CI: 0.29-0.87, respectively) and were not seen elsewhere in the state.
ConclusionChanges in the number, timing and type of abortions were concentrated among residents in particular areas of Louisiana. The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated geographic disparities in access to abortion care.
ImplicationsDisruptions in services at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Louisiana meaningfully affected pregnant people's ability to obtain an abortion at their nearest clinic. These findings reinforce the importance of developing mechanisms to support pregnant people during emergency situations when traveling to a nearby clinic is no longer possible.
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