California's abortion barrier: geography

In 2021, California contained 165 abortion facilities, according to UC San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards of Reproductive Health Facilities Database. The number of facilities appears to have increased — up from 151 facilities in 2017 — but large swaths of the state still lack a nearby abortion clinic.

Approximately 78% of Californians live in a census tract without a clinic — not necessarily an obstacle in dense cities where several census tracts are only a short drive or bus ride away, but potentially insurmountable for those living in remote rural areas where census tracts can span several counties.

And not all clinics are created equal, according to UCSF researcher Ushma Upadhyay, who leads the database team. More than half of the clinics provide only the abortion pill, and can’t conduct procedures beyond 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Anecdotally, and in other states, Upadhyay said there is some evidence that more primary care providers are prescribing abortion pills — but that’s impossible to verify in California given its refusal to collect state abortion data.