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Patient perspectives on barriers in obtaining timely abortion care in Los Angeles, California

      Abstract

      Objectives

      Although California is a state with supportive abortion policies, recent evidence suggests people may still encounter barriers to obtaining timely abortion care. To provide an in-depth understanding of these barriers and augment existing literature focusing on restrictive and hostile states, we sought to understand the patient perspectives of barriers to timely abortion care in Los Angeles, California.

      Study design

      We recruited participants from two, high-volume urban clinical sites and conducted semi-structured interviews with 17 individuals who visited three or more clinics and/or encountered more than 2 weeks between seeking and obtaining their abortion. Using thematic analysis, we analyzed deidentified transcripts by first developing and applying codes, then identifying overarching themes to describe barriers to timely abortion care.

      Results

      Participants described three primary barriers leading to abortion care delay: (1) difficulties in ensuring insurance coverage or securing authorization for abortion care from private/employer-sponsored insurance, (2) inadequate screening resulting in multiple appointments where desired care could not be provided, and (3) difficulties with expeditious referrals to appropriate clinical sites. Participants also described accumulated fatigue from facing layers of resistance when pursuing avenues for care.

      Conclusions

      Even in supportive abortion policy states, barriers to abortion care from insurance, screening, and referral-related issues may result in delayed or unaccessed care, negatively impacting patient experience. Understanding and mitigating reasons for delays are critical to improving patient experience with abortion care.

      Implications

      Standardized telephone triage at local clinic facilities and streamlined MediCal authorization of abortion services may mitigate barriers to timely abortion care.

      Keywords

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