If it’s legal, it’s easy: (Mis)perceptions of abortion access across the US

Megan Simmons, PhD, MPH1, Kristen Jozkowski, PhD2, Brandon Crawford, PhD1, Ronna Turner, Ph.D.1 and Wen-Juo Lo, Ph.D.1
(1)University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, (2)Partnerships For Health, Augusta, ME

APHA's 2019 Annual Meeting and Expo (Nov. 2 - Nov. 6)

Background: From 2011 to 2017, states passed 401 abortion restrictions. Some public discourse suggests that legislative restrictions do not present meaningful barriers to abortion access, whereas other discourse indicates that restrictions delay or deny access. Research examining the relationship between state abortion restrictions and perceptions of access is lacking. The purpose of this study was to examine people’s perceptions of the ease or difficulty of accessing abortion, specifically assessing the extent that it may vary, based on state-level abortion legislative restrictions.

Methods: English and Spanish-speaking U.S. adults (N = 2,671) were recruited from Qualtrics’ national panel to participate in a web-based survey. We asked sociodemographic questions, including state of residency, and open and closed-ended questions assessing perceptions of ease or difficulty in accessing abortion in their state and the U.S. We assessed perceptions of abortion access by geographic location and sociodemographic characteristics. We used thematic analysis to analyze open-ended responses.

Results: Preliminary findings indicate that people generally believe abortion is easy to access in their state and state-level abortion climate influences perceptions of abortion access. Several themes including legality, policy restrictions, and social norms, emerged in the open-ended data. Misconceptions and lack of information were common.

Conclusion: A large proportion of our sample consider abortion easy to access, despite the prevalence of restrictions. Accurate and informed assessment of abortion access is essential for abortion advocacy groups regardless of stance. Recommendations for survey development, policy, and advocacy will be discussed.

Advocacy for health and health education Other professions or practice related to public health Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines Public health or related public policy Social and behavioral sciences