Although Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, obtaining one in America can be incredibly hard based on the attitudes and ideologies of your state's lawmakers. But thanks to the work of 18-year-old Maddy Rasmussen, finding a clinic has never been so easy, because she just created the nation's first-ever comprehensive map of abortion providers.
Rasmussen's main takeaway from creating the online map, called the Safe Place Project, is that the U.S. needs to make access to abortion services easier. “I knew it was limited coming in" to the project, Rasmussen says of abortion care in the United States, "But even when I finally put together this map, I was like, this is crazy.”
Rasmussen tells Bustle that she was surprised by the zone of her map that was empty, because, according to her findings, there is a dearth of abortion providers down from North Dakota to the Texas-Mexico border. In this region, which she calls "the line," women might have to travel very far, Rasmussen notes, meaning they'll have to arrange for hotels and possibly child care if they have other children.
"There are just so many barriers that are preventing women from accessing reproductive health care," she says.
Because of Rasmussen's tool, you can see that in Missouri, for example, there is just one legal abortion-providing clinic. In neighboring Kansas, however, there are three. In addition to locating abortion providers, Rasmussen's online map also keeps a running list of abortion restrictions by state. So to go back to the Missouri-Kansas comparison, with Rasmussen's policies roundup you can see that Missouri requires you to receive in-person counseling and wait 72 hours before having an abortion. In Kansas, on the other hand, you still have to receive counseling and wait, but for a lesser period of time: 24 hours.
Building the map, which took Rasmussen over six months, was a long process. “It was grueling," she says, though for her, it was "definitely" time well spent.
Part of the process was making sure that abortion clinics were still open and providing the service. Rasmussen says that this was easy enough with national networks like Planned Parenthood, but it was harder to verify that some smaller, independent clinics still provided the service. Some clinic websites seemed to carefully avoid the topic, but when Rasmussen called them and asked them point-blank if they provided abortions, the ones on the map said yes. "It probably seemed really suspicious" to the clinics, she says of this process, laughing.
Rasmussen has received a lot of positive feedback on Safe Place Project, and she hopes to continue to expand it by also including hospitals that provide abortion care. Rasmussen, who will attend college in the fall, plans on continuing her project when she reaches campus. "I'll update it at least once every quarter," she says.