Visualizing the inequality of abortion access in a post-Roe America

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: United States

Publishing organisation: CNN

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-06-30

Language: English

Authors: Authors: Daniel Wolfe, Tal Yellin and Priya Krishnakumar
Editor: Janie Boschma
Contributor: Renée Rigdon


Daniel Wolfe is a data journalist with nearly a decade producing charts, interactive visualizations, illustrations, and motion graphics to make memorable content.
Tal Yellin is an art director at CNN Visuals. Priya Krishnakumar spent her time as an editor on CNN’s visual news desk, covering race, inequality and policing.

Project description:

Just days after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade – leaving abortion laws up to each state – CNN published this in-depth interactive showing who would be most affected by the decision and what abortion access looks like in each state. CNN also analyzed the driving distance from every census tract in the country to the nearest abortion clinic in a possible scenario where abortion became illegal in 26 states, and found a vastly unequal landscape of access to the procedure, with many Americans facing the prospect of driving more than 300 miles to the closest facility.

Impact reached:

294,106 views from launch through end of 2022. A final database for our audience to use to see the routes from their area/state to the nearest clinic.

Techniques/technologies used:

We generated our own database to understand how the Court’s decision would impact access in the US and who it would impact. While we had data on where abortion providers were in the US, we could not anticipate — when given the ability — which states would change their laws. So we calculated every possible driving route from every census tract (4 million routes in all) and tied them to available demographic data at that level. This allowed us to analyze and update our database when states would weigh in on the SCOTUS decision

Context about the project:

While the leaked draft opinion tipped our team off to the likely SCOTUS decision on this case, many variables remained in getting our audience useful information in a quick manner after the final decision. We therefore ran many scenarios in order to deliver as much of an analysis as we could, as soon as we could.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Anticipation can lead to great outcomes in breaking news. We started on this project when the Supreme Court was slated to take up this landmark case in the fall of 2021. We gathered data and began conceptualizing once the SCOTUS document was leaked in the spring suggesting that Roe v. Wade would likely be overturned. We were then able to turn around our plan within a week of the news of the decision actually happening.

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