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Journeyed: Crossing State Lines For Abortion

An illustration with a woman in the lower right hand corner with her back to the viewer. She is wearing a white T-shirt, long red pants and a small, yellow purse. She has black hair just past her shoulders and is rolling a teal-colored suitcase. In the middle of the illustration is a highway sign that reads NORTH at the top, "Embodied" in the middle and "Journeyed" below that. There is a dotted line connecting the woman at the bottom of the illustration to a building in the top left hand corner of the illustration. The building has a tree to the left of it and a sign that says "Clinic" at the top.
Charnel Hunter

Nearly one in five people seeking abortion care must cross state lines to get it. Here’s what it takes to get those folks to their appointments and back.

It’s been two years since the Supreme Court revoked the federal right to an abortion, and the subsequent increase in state abortion bans and restrictions has driven people to seek care outside of their home states.

Host Anita Rao meets Taylor Shelton, a woman in her mid-20s who traveled from South Carolina to North Carolina three times to receive the abortion care she needed.

South Carolina instigated a six-week abortion ban in August 2023. Even though Taylor found out she was pregnant at four weeks, the high demand for abortion care in the state made it impossible for her to get an abortion before the six week mark. She made three appointments and drove over 20 hours in order to receive an abortion in North Carolina.

Anita also meets Serra Sippel, the interim director for the Brigid Alliance, a non-profit that organizes transportation, meals, lodging, child care and more for those traveling long distances for abortion care. The Brigid Alliance also specifically supports people who are 15 weeks or more pregnant, which often makes abortion care more expensive and difficult to find. Serra discusses how their work has changed since the Dobbs decision in 2022 and how they are preparing for future influxes of clients.

Plus, Anita talks with sociologist Gretchen Sisson, who studies abortion depictions in movies and television. Gretchen talks about the rise of the “abortion road trip” movie subgenre and how much of what we see of abortion travel on screen matches reality.

An Abortion Road Trip Movie List:
Grandma (2015), directed by Paul Weitz
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020), directed by Eliza Hittman
Unpregnant (2020), directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg
Plan B (2021), directed by Natalie Morales
Red, White and Blue (Short 2023), directed by Nazrin Choudhury
Tripping (Short 2024), directed by Amelia Xanthe Boscov

Read the transcript


Taylor's Search for Abortion Care: An Illustrated Travel Story

Illustration of Taylor (a femme-presenting person with light-tone skin and medium-length brown hair wearing a green shirt) talking on the phone. At the top of the illustration is text that reads: September 2023. Travel Time: 0 Hours. Underneath is this text: Taylor Shelton finds out she is 4 weeks pregnant. She’d just gotten her IUD checked at the gynecologist – so she is shocked and confused. Taylor lives in South Carolina where a 6-week abortion ban had just gone into effect. She calls Planned Parenthood in S.C. but they can’t fit her in before the 6-week mark. Next to Taylor’s head is a bubble of text coming out of the phone that says: “Sorry Miss .. we don’t have any openings before that date …”
Eli Chen/WUNC
Illustration of Taylor (a femme-presenting person with light-tone skin and medium-length brown hair wearing a green shirt) in a car driving next to another femme-presenting person with light-tone skin and short brown hair wearing a blue shirt. A purple arrow pointing to that person says: “Taylor’s Mom went with her.” Text on this slide reads: “Taylor begins to make plans for getting an abortion in North Carolina instead, which has a 12-week ban. But because of N.C. laws, she has to make two appointments. Taylor sets up her first appointment at a crisis pregnancy center in Charlotte to perform the first step of the process: the ultrasound.” To the right of the illustration is a map of North Carolina & South Carolina with a line drawn from SC to Charlotte. There’s also text that says: “Travel time: 4 Hours” and “To get an abortion in N.C. you need: an ultrasound, in-person counseling, 72-hour waiting period.”
Eli Chen/WUNC
Illustration of Taylor (a femme-presenting person with light-tone skin and medium-length brown hair wearing a green shirt) talking to an unidentified person in a white coat holding a clipboard. A speech bubble from that person says: “We’re worried about the embryo, you should get to a hospital.” A speech bubble from Taylor says: “What?? What about the care I asked for my body?” Text on the slide reads: “But when Taylor arrives in Charlotte, the crisis pregnancy center refuses to provide care when she confirms she is planning to get an abortion. Taylor leaves, upset and uncomfortable, and returns home to S.C.” In the bottom right-hand corner is an illustration of an IUD with text: “Also, Taylor makes an additional 3-hr trip to get her IUD removed to stop the pain it’s causing her.” And at the bottom: “Total travel time: 8 hrs.”
Eli Chen/WUNC
 Illustration of Taylor (a femme-presenting person with light-tone skin and medium-length brown hair) lying on a hospital bed getting an ultrasound. Next to her is an unidentified person in a white coat and an ultrasound machine. Text on this slide reads: “ One week later … Taylor drives 8 hours roundtrip to finally get counseling and an ultrasound at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Chapel  Hill. And after a  72-hour waiting period, Taylor drives 4 hours roundtrip to Wilmington to get her abortion. She is six weeks and four days pregnant.”  At the top left is a map of North Carolina & South Carolina with lines drawn from SC to Chapel Hill and Wilmington. At the bottom is this text: “Total travel time: 20 hrs.”
Eli Chen/WUNC
Illustration of Taylor (a femme-presenting person with light-tone skin and medium-length brown hair) wearing a blue blazer holding papers with images of other folks of a variety of ages, gender presentations, and races in the background. Text on this slide reads: “Overall, it took Taylor 20+ hours of driving and four appointments to get the reproductive care she needed. Today, Taylor is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state of South Carolina over its 6-week ban.” Next to Taylor is a speech bubble with the text: “I was forced to jump through so many unnecessary hoops in order to receive the care I deserved.”
Eli Chen/WUNC
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Kaia Findlay is the lead producer of Embodied, WUNC's weekly podcast and radio show about sex, relationships and health. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
Amanda Magnus is the executive producer of Embodied, a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships and health. She has also worked on other WUNC shows including Tested and CREEP.