January 2024

Barriers and delays in access to abortion care: a cross-sectional study of people traveling to obtain care in England and the Netherlands from European countries where abortion is legal on broad grounds

Wollum A, De Zordo S, Zanini G, Mishtal J, Garnsey C, Gerdts C. Reproductive Health. January 2024. DOI: 10.1186/s12978-023-01729-2

This study characterized the extent to which (1) financial barriers and (2) abortion care-seeking within a person’s country of residence were associated with delays in abortion access among those travelling to England and the Netherlands for abortion care from European countries where abortion is legal on broad grounds in the first trimester but where access past the first trimester is limited to specific circumstances.

We drew on cross-sectional survey data collected at five abortion clinics in England and the Netherlands from 2017 to 2019 (n = 164). We assessed the relationship between difficulty paying for the abortion/travel, acute financial insecurity, and in-country care seeking on delays to abortion using multivariable discrete-time hazards models.

Participants who reported facing both difficulty paying for the abortion procedure and/or travel and difficulty covering basic living costs in the last month reported longer delays in accessing care than those who had no financial difficulty (adjusted hazard odds ratio: 0.39 95% CI 0.21–0.74). This group delayed paying other expenses (39%) or sold something of value (13%) to fund their abortion, resulting in ~ 60% of those with financial difficulty reporting it took them over a week to raise the funds needed for their abortion. Having contacted or visited an abortion provider in the country of residence was associated with delays in presenting abroad for an abortion.

These findings point to inequities in access to timely abortion care based on socioeconomic status. Legal time limits on abortion may intersect with individuals’ interactions with the health care system to delay care.