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People needing an abortion will travel to Florida. A economist looks at how many and the costs

Protestors hold signs and march through downtown Orlando during an abortion rally in June 2022. (photo via Yineth Bolanos)
Yineth Bolanos
Protestors hold signs and march through downtown Orlando during an abortion rally in June 2022.

WMFE spoke with Melanie Guldi, associate professor of economics at the University of Central Florida, about how Florida's new abortion law might affects you and the state economy.

On Friday, a 15-week abortion ban took effect in Florida. A Leon County judge has ruled that the new law is unconstitutional and on Tuesday issued a temporarily injunction. But the issue will likely end up at the Florida Supreme Court.

WMFE’s Talia Blake spoke with Melanie Guldi, associate professor of economics at the University of Central Florida, about how the law might affects you and the Central Florida economy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019 Florida had 71,914 abortions preformed in the state, with 2,256 preformed to nonresidents.

The Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration reports there have been 33,382 abortions in the state so far this year, with 2,372 preformed to nonresidents. 

Melanie Guldi is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Central Florida.
Melanie Guldi is an associate professor of economics at UCF.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturing of Roe v. Wade last month, some states are moving to tighten restrictions on abortion and people seeking the procedure will be traveling to neighboring states with less-restrictive laws.

Guldi believes people will travel to the Sunshine State to get to the procedure, but most "are probably going to come over the state border, and it’s probably going to be the northern border. So look to cities maybe like Tallahassee or Jacksonville.”

That means it is less likely they will travel to Central or South Florida.

Guldi said the further a person has to travel to get an abortion reduces the likelihood that they will seek one.

“Based on numbers in 2019, I found an estimate of maybe just under 7,000, women might come to Florida,” she said. “And that’s not Central Florida, that’s all of Florida, we might expect a little bit of an increase in the demand for abortions in Florida.”

Guldi said  abortion is going to be less expensive the earlier in the pregnancy and more expensive the later in the pregnancy. “Just because medically it’s more complicated, the later along the gestation is both for the mother and the fetus,” she said.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research group, in 2014 the average cost for an abortion in the first trimester in the U.S. was $508. For an abortion during the second trimester, it was $1,195. And then for a later-term abortion, it can cost $3,000 or higher.

To give these numbers more context, Guldi said “the cost to abortion, it’s monetary, but there’s also a time cost involved. With that in mind, Florida has a 24-hour waiting period. So, there’s also a cost of having to go to one appointment, and then you can’t have the abortion before 24 hours after that first appointment.”

Researchers at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, based at the University of California San Francisco, conducted a study looking at the effects of unwanted pregnancy on women’s lives. It’s called the Turn Away study, and Guldi said it’s the best indicator of potential long-term effect of Florida’s 15-week abortion ban.

“These researchers took samples of women, and they looked at women that were just above by a day or two versus just below the gestational cutoffs. And then they compare the outcomes of these women,” she explained.

“And one of the things that comes out of that study is that the women who were turned away and ended up having the babies were worse off financially than the women who were able to better time their pregnancies. So, in some sense, abortion is about control. It might be control of whether or not you have a baby, but also might be when do you have the baby.”

Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Talia Blake