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KANW is a member of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serves the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Our mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues across the Mountain West.From land and water management to growth in the expanding West to our unique culture and heritage, we'll explore the issues that define us and the challenges we face.

How abortion has changed in the Mountain West since Roe v. Wade was overturned

A clinic room
Jennifer Morrow from San Francisco, CC BY 2.0
Wikimedia Commons

News brief: 

Abortions increased throughout the U.S. in the year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, according to newly released data.

This trend comes despite more than a dozen states passing abortion restrictions or bans following the court’s decision. In the Mountain West, some states are becoming hubs for women seeking reproductive care, while others want to limit abortion access.

The new data is from #WeCount, a research project led by the pro-abortion rights group Society of Family Planning. It shows that the average number of abortions per month rose modestly between June 2022 and June 2023. Health experts involved in the research say this is a stunning finding considering how many states have limited abortions.

“Abortion access plummeted to zero in some states, while increasing to meet the acute need in others, leading to a complete disruption in the healthcare system and people's lives,” Ushma Upadhyay, a professor of public health and co-chair of #WeCount, said in a press call. “The increase in abortion numbers nationally is a complicated and nuanced finding and needs to be read alongside the decimation of access across wide regions of the country.”

The Supreme Court’s decision in June 2022 overturned long-held abortion rights and gave states more power to set restrictions.

In the Mountain West, New Mexico saw the largest increase in patients seeking abortion – nearly 50 percent more abortions were performed there in June 2023 compared to June 2022. Nevada and Colorado also saw double-digit increases.

Alison Norris, a public health professor who was also involved in the research, said that states accommodating those traveling for care are providing a vital service. But for patients, that experience can still be a “great hardship.”

“It can be expensive, logistically complicated, and a traumatic experience,” Norris said. “For people not able to travel, some have likely managed their abortions outside the formal medical system…Other people have surely been forced to remain pregnant when they didn't want to.”

#WeCount used data reported by providers to track both surgical and medication abortions, which includes increasingly popular telehealth procedures. It did not factor in self-managed abortions outside the U.S. healthcare system.

Utah and Wyoming have seen minimal changes to their abortion care systems in the past year, as proposed restrictions are still being debated in courts. The number of abortions in Utah dropped from about 360 in June 2022 to 330 in June of this year, and in Wyoming it lowered from about 50 in June 2022 to 40 this year.

Abortions have been almost completely banned in Idaho, so the number of procedures has dropped from 190 in June 2022 to nearly zero. Many patients there have traveled to other states for procedures.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is a contributing journalist and former reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.