A new study shows that people with less access to abortion actually do more Internet searches for the word "abortion." Could this mean women in red states actually want reproductive services after all?
The study, by two doctors at Children's Hospital Boston, looked at 50 states and 37 countries, and found more online searches for the word "abortion" in places where abortion laws were more restrictive. Says study co-author Dr. Ben Reis, "In places where abortion access is readily available, people can go to their mainstream health care providers." But in more restrictive places, "people may be going on the Internet to find alternate routes." Over at RH Reality Check, Amanda Marcotte draws another important conclusion: just because women live in areas where abortions are difficult or impossible to obtain, that doesn't mean they don't want them. She challenges Ross Douthat's claim that red-staters are ideologically committed to "an attempt, however compromised, to navigate post-sexual revolution America without relying on abortion," and writes,
[T]he lower abortion rates in more conservative areas are far more likely to be the result of lack of access than they are an unwillingness on the part of women to terminate unwanted pregnancies. If you don't have a doctor in your county performing abortions, the abortion rate in your county is probably zero. But if you drive to the next county to get an abortion, their abortion rate goes up. We know that women will often travel across many states in order to avoid bearing unwanted children. (In Texas, women will often travel into Mexico, often just to avoid being seen in the local abortion clinics.) Claiming a low abortion rate indicates a lack of desire for abortion services is like claiming teenagers love "Beowulf" because they're assigned to read it in high school.
The observation about women traveling to Mexico to avoid abortion stigma is especially telling — women's actual desires for reproductive health services, including abortion, may often be hidden in places where those services are considered immoral. Maybe women in red states really do want access to abortion — or contraception, which Marcotte points out is often also hard to obtain in places where abortion is restricted — but we can't know for sure, because these desires are so heavily stigmatized they may be unspoken. The Children's Hospital study, though, offers a clue that women are at least curious about services they're not getting — and that's yet another reason we need to extend access to all reproductive services to everyone, not just people who vote Democrat. Because we can't assume that the fact that some women don't have choices means they don't want them.
Access To Abortion: Red State, Blue State, Interstate [RH Reality Check]
‘Abortion' Googled More In Conservative Areas [Boston Herald]
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