Barriers to sexual and reproductive health services faced by immigrant women of reproductive age in the United States
Ibis Reproductive Health. Jan 2023.
Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is an essential aspect of one’s health, yet many people in the United States, such as immigrant women, are unable to access SRH services. As of 2020, approximately 45 million immigrants lived in the United States (14% of the US population) and an estimated 27.5% are females of reproductive age (aged 15-49). About 22.8% of immigrants (10.3 million) are undocumented, of which 36% (3.7 million) are women of reproductive age. Research suggests that immigrant women have less access to preventive reproductive services, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, and limited access to adequate levels of prenatal care.
While little is known about immigrants’ access to abortion care, research suggests that a lack of knowledge about abortion laws and services may be a barrier to obtaining this care. Abortion care may be especially difficult for some immigrants to obtain, especially after the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling, which overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June of 2022. Since this decision, state policies on abortion have been quickly changing and will continue to shift. As of January 3, 2023, 12 states have banned abortion with limited exceptions, and the majority do not make exceptions for rape or incest. No clinics offer abortion services in these 12 states, and in one additional state (WI), a lack of legal clarity around the state’s abortion law has resulted in no clinics offering abortion services.
In this brief, we summarize the myriad barriers that may prevent immigrants, both those lawfully present and those undocumented, from accessing SRH services, particularly abortion care.