One of the advantages of having lived through the pre-Roe days is that it gives one a sense of the history of abortion in the second half of the twentieth century—especially the dramatic change in attitudes, norms, and behaviors that preceded the momentous 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. Most Baby Boomers can remember the days when abortion was pretty much taboo. In the 1960s, the majority of single young women who became pregnant still married the father of their child. A few others quietly left school to “go away” and wait for the birth, promising to return once the baby was placed with a loving family. Beginning in the late ’60s, however, the emerging feminist movement began to influence public opinion on the option of abortion. Some—especially young Catholic girls—were shocked by the growing acceptance of what they had been taught was a serious sin. But nothing could have prepared them for the watershed event of 1970, when New York State laws criminalizing abortion were repealed, giving rise to “abortion tourism.” By definition, abortion tourism is travel for the purpose of obtaining an abortion in a state where it is legal.1 According to the New York Times, within two years of its legalization in the Empire State, more than 100,000 women had traveled from their home states to New York City for an abortion. Some came from as far away as Arizona, Idaho, and Nevada. Over half of them traveled more than 500 miles to legally end the life of their unborn child.2
Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe, leading an increasing number of states to implement restrictive abortion laws, New York City is once again the deadly destination of choice, especially for women seeking late-term abortions. Even before Dobbs was decided, New York governor Kathy Hochul had assured women in Texas, where a restrictive law was already in place, that “Lady Liberty is here to welcome you with open arms.” Shortly after she took over from her disgraced predecessor Andrew Cuomo in 2021, Hochul told MSNBC that “enlightened” New Yorkers would help these women “in any way we can.”
For women in Texas, they need to know: we will help you find a way to New York and we are right now looking intensely to find what resources we can bring to the table to help you have safe transport here and let you know there are providers who will assist you in this time of your need.3
New York, New York, an Abortion Town
As long as abortion was illegal it remained relatively rare. But once New York decriminalized it, attitudes changed dramatically. Women, including some who were Catholic, began to think that since abortion was legally available it was no longer wrong. Many of us who were in college in the ’70s heard about acquaintances who were travelling to New York City for abortions. It was a sad and confusing time, as more and more of our peers embraced a new norm: that a woman had the right to destroy her unborn child. Abortion became a wedge issue, threatening friendships and leading people to self-censor as public support for it grew. It seemed little could be done to push back the “pro-choice” juggernaut, especially once the earliest practitioners realized how much money could be made from abortion tourism. Larry Lader and Dr. Bernard Nathanson were pioneers, but savvy entrepreneurial feminists like New York abortionist Merle Hoffman did even more than these better-known activists to routinize the abortion tourism business.
In a 2011 Forbes article titled “The Millionaire Abortionist,” Hoffman described being on the front lines as young women began traveling to New York City from all over the country to have abortions:
[W]omen were literally lining up around clinics. The physician I worked for wanted to get involved and I found it extremely romantic. I wasn’t political then, I wasn’t marching. I was much more internalized and my contribution was practical. But it really fell into my lap, and I just opened my arms and brought it to me . . . Sometimes I look at it and I think, it looks like destiny. Smells like destiny. Was it destiny? I can’t really go there. But . . . it’s something.4
Hoffman is correct when she says the abortion business fell in her lap. She was a graduate student in psychology—with no medical training at all—who happened to be working for a doctor who, as she says, “wanted to get involved.” In the spring of 1971, Hoffman opened her own clinic in Queens, New York. One of the first ambulatory abortion facilities in the country, Choices Women’s Medical Center, according to all reports—including those in Hoffman’s hometown newspaper, the East Hampton Star—has made its founder a fortune. Living in a “lavish, waterfront home,” the paper notes, “Hoffman is not at all defensive about the profits she has enjoyed from her work.”5
In an interview for the Forbes article, Hoffman said she saw nothing contradictory in being both a feminist and a capitalist. Dismissing those who feel that “a real feminist has to be a socialist,” Hoffman said she wasn’t “apologetic about the fact that I have created a wonderful medical business that has served hundreds of thousands of women, and I am not apologetic that I have an entrepreneurial spirit.”6
In a laudatory story published last year in the New York Times, accompanied by a 1989 photo of her standing outside of New York’s St. Patrick’s (Catholic) Cathedral, Hoffman recalled those heady protest days when she “mobilized hundreds of other women,” all brandishing coat hangers, to challenge Cardinal John O’Connor’s anti-abortion stance.7 She claimed that “it has been an enormous privilege to be able to spend my life, my life blood, my life’s energy working on something that’s so vitally important . . . I’ll do it as long as I’m walking and talking. I have my hanger, and it’s ready to go up.” The then 77-year-old Hoffman—whose work as an abortionist has spanned 50 years—also told the Times reporter that as the Supreme Court geared up to announce the end of Roe, she was “reliving my youth . . . My feeling is that we minimized the strength of the opposition.”
Abortion Tourism Ramps Up—Flush with Taxpayer Money
Hoffman may indeed have underestimated the strength of the pro-life movement, but the pro-life movement has never underestimated the tenacity and ruthlessness of the pro-abortion side. Collaborating with the abortion industry, most Democratic politicians have been especially proactive in finding ways to keep abortion available to their constituents, thus ensuring that their campaign efforts will continue to be replenished by the industry’s powerful lobby. Even before the Dobbs case was filed at the Supreme Court, some politicians had begun publicly to warn justices that they should not consider overturning Roe. In 2020, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) threatened Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, claiming that they would “pay the price” if they voted to overturn Roe.8 When the leak that Roe would indeed be overturned emerged from the Court in May 2022, abortion providers and their political minions mobilized to confront what they saw as an existential threat to their industry.9 By the following October, more than one hundred pro-life pregnancy centers throughout the country had “paid the price” by being vandalized—some even firebombed—while the Department of Justice had failed to make even one arrest.10
Violence was not the only reaction to Dobbs. In the year since the decision was announced, the abortion tourism industry has returned in force; more organized, more powerful, and more widespread than before. State governments have now become “partners” with providers, allocating taxpayer money to help underwrite out-of-state women’s access to abortion. For example, New York and California, and most recently, Connecticut, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting their abortion services to out-of-state women. While Merle Hoffman advertised her Choices clinic widely but discreetly in newspapers and women’s magazines, today’s ads are bold invitations to end unwanted pregnancies, strategically placed on billboards on busy highways in states where abortion is restricted.
California was the first state to use local billboards, each specifically targeted to one of these states: Texas, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. “Need an Abortion?” the text of the Mississippi ad reads, “California Is Ready to Help . . . Visit abortion.ca.gov to learn more.”11 In a sick nod to those who might have religious objections to the message, the ad includes the biblical enjoinder to “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” The South Dakota billboard depicts a woman in handcuffs and reads: “South Dakota Doesn’t Own Your Body. You Do.” On the day the billboards were introduced, Newsom took to Twitter to tweak the seven state governors, posting pictures of the ads and tweeting, “This will be launching in your state today.”12 Governor Kristie Noem, for one, tweeted back that “In South Dakota, we are a destination for FREEDOM and LIFE.” Newsom, she went on, should “get to work cleaning up the human feces on the streets of your cities and turning the lights back on.”
The billboards, which also carry (in very small print) the line “Paid for by Newsom for California Governor 2022,” went up not long after Newsom announced during his reelection campaign the launch of a new $1 million abortion website. The site, abortion.ca.gov, provides information for anyone who wants to access abortion in the state—even non-residents. It offers location information for 166 abortion facilities, along with details on how to get abortion pills by mail, and features links for financial help, including abortion travel details. It also tells minors from out-of-state how to get an abortion in California without their parents’ permission, and has a section specifically instructing undocumented immigrants on how they can get Medicaid (taxpayer-funded) coverage for abortion. “I want people to know all around the rest of the country and many parts of the globe, that I hope we’re your antidote to your fear, your anxiety,” says Newsom in a statement on the site’s homepage.13
While New York’s billboards are not quite as mean-spirited as California’s, they are equally blatant about the availability of abortion for out-of-state women. And the City of New York is clearly a partner with the abortion industry in advertising the state’s commitment to abortion tourism: Taxpayer money (from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene budget) is being used to pay for billboards in Georgia, Florida, and Texas. New York City taxpayers are also funding—to the tune of one million dollars—a phone line or “abortion access hub” that is open twelve hours a day, six days a week, and staffed with bilingual counselors who refer far-flung abortion seekers to local providers.14
Connecticut is the latest state to join the abortion tourism industry—replete with government largesse made possible by taxpayers. In a gift to their campaign supporters at Planned Parenthood, state Democratic lawmakers led by Representative Matt Blumenthal, co-chair of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Reproductive Rights Caucus, have established a government fund to cover the costs for out-of-state women who travel to Connecticut for abortions. Congratulating his fellow Democrats on their hospitality, pro-abortion Governor Ned Lamont lauded State Treasurer Erick Russell’s fledgling Safe Harbor Fund as the “first step” in the state’s commitment to abortion tourism. In addition to paying for women’s travel-related costs, pro-abortion groups also want the state to fund more abortion training, complaining that “a shortage has led to two-week-plus wait times, according to Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.”15 All such tax-payer-funded initiatives benefit Democratic lawmakers’ biggest donors—the state’s abortion providers.16
“Travel Navigators” and “Abortion Doulas”
As in any tourism industry, there are “travel agents” to help out-of-state abortion seekers with the logistics. But unlike the traditional variety, these travel navigators (as Planned Parenthood calls them) and abortion doulas (as they are known in a growing number of pro-abortion states) not only arrange for the procedure itself—along with travel, hotels, meals, and even childcare—they also help abortion seekers find ways to pay for it all, usually by tapping taxpayer funds. The New York Abortion Access Fund pays clinics directly for low-income patients’ abortions. The fund has four separate call lines: one for New York City residents; another for residents of other parts of New York State; a third for out-of-state residents; and a Spanish language line. According to a story in the New York Times this past April, the fund has helped people from 29 states and Washington, D.C., as well as six foreign countries. At first most of the calls came in response to a 2022 Ohio law that banned abortion after six weeks (due to a court challenge the law is no longer in effect). Now, the majority of out-of-state callers are from Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, where abortion is legal but significantly restricted. As the Times reported:
Last year, the New York fund spent $1.2 million to help 1,800 callers compared to just over $500,000 in 2021. Funding comes from the city government. The New York City Council in September 2022 announced plans for another $1 million to be split evenly between the New York Abortion Access Fund and the Brigid Alliance, a nonprofit that helps people with the logistical costs of an abortion including transportation, meals and child care . . . In the six months after Dobbs, the Brigid Alliance saw a nearly sixfold increase in the number of people requesting help traveling to New York City from out of state.17
One of the fastest-growing career paths in the abortion tourism industry is that of the abortion doula, or someone who provides support to women before, during, and after their abortions. They have no official certification; most receive on-the-job training as volunteers at Planned Parenthood and other clinics where abortions are performed. Currently, there are only a few abortion doula programs in the country, including New York City’s Doula Project, founded in 2007 to provide emotional support to abortion patients. Today, in the midst of the burgeoning abortion tourism industry, the abortion doula’s role has expanded to include securing funds for travel and abortion-related expenses. According to an interview with Jenna Brown, program director and lead teacher for a group called Birthing Advocacy Doula Trainings, “the majority of the work that abortion doulas do is in support of logistics preceding care.”18
There are similar initiatives in Colorado through the Colorado Doula Project. With abortion legal at all stages of pregnancy, Colorado, like New York, was already becoming a sanctuary state before Roe was overturned. In fact, abortion tourism is so ubiquitous there, comedian Amy Schumer satirized it in a two-minute video.19 According to executive director Gina Martinez, as abortion in surrounding states has become more restricted, the Colorado Doula Project has experienced a “massive increase” in business. Volunteer abortion doulas pick up out-of-state clients from airports, arrange for accommodations, and take them to appointments; the organization also helps pay for childcare, hotels and gas.20 Unlike New York, which funds abortions for out-of-state women with taxpayer money, the majority of such services in Colorado are funded by the non-profit Cobalt Abortion Fund, which claims to have paid for more than 94 percent of all abortions performed on women from out of state. “Cobalt provides funding for clients to cover both procedural costs of abortion and practical costs, including travel, childcare, hotel rooms, etc.”21
The role of the abortion doula got the attention of Catholics recently when the University of Notre Dame invited a North Carolina doula named Ash Williams to give a lecture. Williams, who claims to be a “transgendered man,” but had two abortions while still a woman, told NPR in an interview last fall that she is especially concerned about transgendered men who need abortions: “Trans folks often have to travel farther to get a doctor to use their pronouns, I might be the only one asking, that’s part of the care as well.” Williams struggled to find funding for her abortions, receiving help from abortion doulas and her local queer community. This inspired her to focus on funding other “people’s” abortions today. “I’m trying to meet people where they are and just make sure that they can have the best abortion. That looks like making sure they have child care and a ride. It looks like making sure they’re not choosing between their utility bill and their abortion.”22
The Future of Abortion Tourism Flush with Public and Private Funds
In addition to state taxpayer funding, more than 60 major U.S. companies have updated their family planning policies to include reimbursements for abortion-related travel.* According to the Washington Stand, Amazon and Apple—and a long list of other companies—have “announce[ed] updated ‘health care’ policies that include thousands of dollars in abortion stipends and travel reimbursement.”23 Dick’s Sporting Goods, for example, provides up to $4,000 for an employee’s travel costs (including family members). When queried about this, CEO Lauren Hobart told reporters:
We recognize people feel passionately about this topic and that there are teammates and athletes who will not agree with this decision, however we also recognize that decisions involving health and families are deeply personal and made with thoughtful consideration. We are making this decision so our teammates can access the same healthcare options, regardless of where they live, and choose what is best for them.24
According to Reuters, Amazon has offered to pay up to $4,000 in travel expenses annually for abortion if the employee lives in an area with abortion restrictions. The benefit—which became effective January 1, 2023, applies if access to abortion is not available within 100 miles of an employee’s home and virtual care is not possible. It is open to U.S. employees or covered dependents of employees enrolled in the Amazon company health plans. And it applies to all employees whether they work in a corporate office or a warehouse.25
Trafficking in Abortion Pills
As we have seen, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, abortion tourism returned from its hiatus—bringing with it an onslaught of innovative tactics that ensure that women anywhere in the country and at any point of gestational development can obtain access to an abortion. An offshoot of this has women in states where abortion is very restricted taking to the mail to obtain abortion pills from providers in liberal states. A Mexican feminist group known as Las Libres is promoting the wholesale distribution of abortion drugs, helping American women defy abortion bans in their own states. Requiring no medical consultation or minimum age, Las Libres claims to provide “support and access to safe abortion for all women, girls, and people who require it.”26 Las Libres is advertised and linked to by Plan C, a website promoting chemical abortion that is sponsored by the nonprofit National Women’s Health Network organization. Instructions for receiving pills by mail from Las Libres are kept simple. All that is required is that a woman send an email requesting abortion pills, along with her name, mailing address, and the date of her last menstrual period. There is no evidence that standard medical procedures, which would verify actual gestational development, are followed. The abortion drugs, intended to end the life of the unborn baby, can be used only up to a certain point in the pregnancy. If a woman takes the pills after that point, she is at risk of complications that could land her in an emergency room.
The Las Libres website assures abortion seekers that the medication is “safe,” but also warns that, “if you go to a healthcare facility, do not reveal that you took pills to cause an abortion.”27 Instead, women are instructed to lie and say they are having a spontaneous miscarriage. Apparently, this procedure is so “safe” it can be done at home by an underage girl who must lie to physicians if she needs to seek medical attention.
Like Las Libres, New York continues its commitment to find innovative ways to help abortion-seeking women who live in states with abortion restrictions. Acknowledging the fact that medication abortion drugs account for 54 percent of all abortions throughout the country, on June 20, 2023, the New York State Assembly passed legislation designed to protect doctors, medical providers, and facilitators serving patients seeking access to medication abortion through telehealth (Assembly Bill A.01709). Claiming that “New York remains a sanctuary state for access,” Speaker of the House Carl Heastie said: “It is our moral obligation to help women across the country with their bodily autonomy by protecting New York doctors from litigation efforts from anti-choice extremists. Telehealth is the future of healthcare, and this bill is simply the next step in making sure our doctors are protected.”28
The bill, which protects abortion providers when women suffer the inevitable complications of telehealth-provided abortion, is yet another gift to the abortion industry. Assemblymember Karines Reyes, R.N., a co-sponsor, admitted as much, saying she was “proud to sponsor this critical piece of legislation to fully protect abortion providers using telemedicine.”29 Reyes knows—as all pro-abortion politicians know—that the key to filling their campaign coffers is continuing to support the abortion industry no matter how many women suffer the deadly consequences.
1. Marissa Postell. “What is Abortion Tourism?” Ethics and Religious Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. April 5, 2022. https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/what-is-abortion-tourism/
2. Ginia Bellafante. “She Ran an Abortion Clinic Before Roe v. Wade. She Has Some Thoughts.” New York Times. May 6, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/06/nyregion/roe-v-wade-merlehoffman.html
3. Paul Kengor. “New York’s Catholic Governor: Come to New York for Abortion.” Crisis Magazine. September 21, 2021. https://www.crisismagazine.com/opinion/new-yorks-new-catholic-governorcome-to-ny-for-abortions
4. Meghan Casserly. “The Millionaire Abortionist.” Forbes. December 5, 2011. https://www. forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2011/12/05/the-millionaire-abortionist-womens-lives-are-mybusiness/?sh=155ce31c48fa
5. Cited by Miciah Bilger. “Abortionist Admits She Loves Killing Babies: ‘This is my Dream.’” Lifenews.com May 18, 2018. https://www.lifenews.com/2018/05/18/abortionist-admits-she-loveskilling-babies-this-is-my-dream/
6. Meghan Casserly. “The Millionaire Abortionist.” Forbes. December 5, 2011.
7. Ginia Bellafante. “She Ran an Abortion Clinic Before Roe v. Wade: She Has Some Thoughts.” New York Times. May 6, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/06/nyregion/roe-v-wade-merlehoffman.html
8. “Schumer Tells Justices They Will ‘Pay the Price.’” CNN. March 4, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/ videos/politics/2020/03/04/schumer-gorsuch-kavanaugh-supreme-court-abortion-lead-vpx.cnn
9. United States Supreme Court. Public Report on the Leak of the Dobbs Decision. January 19, 2023. https://www.supremecourt.gov/publicinfo/press/Dobbs_Public_Report_January_19_2023.pdf
10.“More than 100 clinics and churches attacked after Dobbs leak.” Fox News. October 20, 2022. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/100-pro-life-orgs-churches-attacked-Dobbs-leak
*editor’s note: this link is dead and while the article can be found in Fox News website search, clicking on it produces the same error page.
11. Marina Potofsky. “Gavin Newsom Rents Billboards in Seven StatesAttackingAbortion Restrictions.” USA Today. September 15, 2022. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/09/15/ca-gavinnewsom-billboards-abortion/10391005002/
12. Tweet from Gavin Newsom to Governor Kristi Noem. Twitter. September 15, 2022. https://twitter. com/GavinNewsom/status/1570457841177350146?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetem bed%7Ctwterm%5E1570522078075559936%7Ctwgr%5E50a59bbf963d82f16b3e9cefc1fc670eda91 3e49%7Ctwcon%5Es3_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.usatoday.com%2Fstory%2Fnews%2Fpol itics%2F2022%2F09%2F15%2Fca-gavin-newsom-billboards-abortion%2F10391005002%2F
14. Abraham Kenmore. “New York Bought Billboards in Three Other States to Advertise Abortion.” USA Today. March 23, 2023 https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2023/03/23/abortiongeorgia-billboards-funded-by-new-york-city/11526061002/?gnt-cfr=1
15. John Craven. “Connecticut Lawmakers Propose Safe Harbor Fund for Out of State Abortion Patients.” News12. January 25, 2023. https://connecticut.news12.com/lawmakers-propose-safeharbor-fund-for-out-of-state-abortion-patients
16.“Planned Parenthood Votes! Connecticut.” 2022 Election Wins. https://www. plannedparenthoodaction.org/planned-parenthood-votes-connecticut/2022-election-wins
17. Lola Fadulu. “New York Welcomes Growing Number of Out of State Abortion Patients.” New York Times. April 12, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/12/nyregion/abortions-out-of-statenyc.html
18. Harmeet Kauer. “It’s a Stressful Time to be an Abortion Doula.” CNN. July 15, 2022. https://www. cnn.com/2022/07/15/health/abortion-doulas-roe-v-wade-wellness-cec/index.html
19. Amy Schumer. “Colorado.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UtXIhTRFLk
20. Harmeet Kauer. “It’s a Stressful Time to be an Abortion Doula.” CNN. July 15, 2022. https://www. cnn.com/2022/07/15/health/abortion-doulas-roe-v-wade-wellness-cec/index.html
22. Destinee Adams. “What It’s Like Being an Abortion Doula in a State With Restrictive Laws. NPR. October 19, 2022. https://www.npr.org/2022/10/19/1123778633/abortion-doula-north-carolina
23. Suzanne Bowdey. “Sixty-Two Companies Announce Abortion Perks. Hundreds More Stay Silent. Washington Stand. June 27, 2022. https://washingtonstand.com/commentary/56-companiesannounce-abortion-perks-hundreds-more-stay-silent-
24. Becket Adams. “A Complete List of the U. S. Companies Sponsoring Abortion Tourism.” Washington Examiner. July 2, 2022. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/restoring-america/ equality-not-elitism/a-complete-list-of-the-us-companies-sponsoring-abortion-tourism
26. “The Plan C Guide to Abortion Pills by Mail.” Plan C | How to Request Abortion Pills from Las Libres, n.d. https://www.plancpills.org/las-libres
* Companies sponsoring abortion tourism: Accenture, Adidas, Adobe, AirBnb, Alaska Airlines, Amazon, American Express, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Box.com, Bumble, Buzzfeed, Chobani, Citigroup, Comcast, Conde Nast, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Disney, DoorDash, Duolingo, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Google, GrubHub, Gucci, Hewlett-Packard, Hello Bello, Hewett Packard, H&M, HPE, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan, Kroger’s, Levi Strauss, Live Nation, Lyft, Macy’s, Mastercard, Match, Meta, Microsoft, Netflix, Nike, Ok Cupid, Paramount, Patagonia, PayPal, Reddit, Salesforce, Sony, Starbucks, Target, Tesla, Uber, Vox Media, Walmart, Warner Bros, Wells Fargo, Yelp, Zillow.
Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She is the author of several books, including The Politics of Abortion (Encounter books). Her most recent book is The Politics of Envy (Crisis Books, 2022). Lucia Hunt is an Undergraduate Student Fellow in the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She serves as a Legal Intern at First Liberty Institute.