Planned Parenthood will launch its first mobile abortion clinic


During the nine months preceding Roe vs. Wade was overturned, the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Fairview Heights, Illinois had been busier than usual, receiving an influx of patients from Texas who were traveling north after the six-week abortion ban by the ‘State.

But when deer fell in June, the steady flow of out-of-state patients turned into a surge as abortion was banned or severely restricted in states surrounding Illinois. The number of patients at Planned Parenthood’s Fairview Heights Clinic in southern Illinois has increased 340% since the Supreme Court ruling, according to the provider.

“Before the ruling, we were able to get people in for abortion care in about two to three days,” said Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis and Southwest area. Missouri, which covers southern Illinois. “Now it’s about two to three weeks.”

Spurred on by the number of patients who must travel out of state for abortion care, Planned Parenthood announced Monday that it is launching its first mobile abortion clinic, which will cover the southern Illinois border.

Mobile units join mail-order abortion pill providers and telehealth appointments among latest strategies sought by reproductive rights advocates and healthcare providers to keep abortion safe and accessible to as many patients as possible possible as the landscape becomes more restrictive, especially in the South and Midwest.

Planned Parenthood’s mobile unit is expected to be operational by the end of the year, when it will begin offering medical abortions up to 11 weeks gestation. Organizers anticipate that this will also help expand the capacity of its physical clinics by offering family planning, emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

McNicholas described the unit as a converted 37-foot RV with “fully functional exam rooms to provide the full range of services,” as well as an indoor lab and waiting room.

“It really mimics the experience one might have at one of our smaller health centers,” she said.

It is planned to equip the unit for first trimester surgical abortions early next year. The exact route and location are yet to be determined, but the mobile unit will operate along the southern Illinois border, Yamelsie Rodriguez, president of the regional branch of Planned Parenthood, said at a press conference. .

McNicholas said beforeDobbs versus Jackson, the Supreme Court decision that overturned Deer, about 4% of patients at the Fairview Heights clinic came from outside the bistate area — the clinic is just 10 miles from the Missouri border. Now the number is closer to 40%. In 2021, the last full year abortions were legal in Missouri, 3,639 state residents had abortions, according to state health data.

“I can’t tell you the number of patients I’ve seen get in their car at 2 a.m. and drive nine hours here, then have to get back in their car immediately after and drive nine hours back,” McNicholas said. .

A mobile unit means reducing patient travel and absence hours or paying for child or elderly care. It also means serving more patients who need procedural care and can’t be treated via telehealth, McNicholas said.

“At the most fundamental level, as Americans, we deserve to have access to basic health care where we live,” McNicholas said. “And we’re in a situation where potentially half the country will have abdicated responsibility for basic life-saving health care.”

Illinois and Minnesota are the only Midwestern states to have protected abortion rights afterDeer. Michigan is holding a referendum on the November ballot that will determine whether it becomes the third.

McNicholas said there were no immediate plans for additional mobile units, but said Planned Parenthood is working with other partners across the country who provide mobile care.

And although mobile clinics are only operated outside of states where abortion remains protected by law, proponents and opponents of abortion, as well as legal experts, recognize that complex interstate issues are looming.

States like Illinois can try to write rules that limit so-called “long arm statues” from states like Texas with “bounty laws.” Such laws encourage citizens to sue anyone they suspect of having “aiding or abetting” the state’s ban on abortion, and it is unclear how far the laws may attempt to go. reach beyond state lines, said Robin Fretwell Wilson, who directs the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. at the University of Illinois College of Law.

“You have the whole interstate problem: how can a blue state protect itself from the projection of public policy from the red state into a blue state?” said Wilson. “We don’t know the answer yet, but Illinois is on the line.”

The answers may come, she said, once a state has gone to court, and probably not before.


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