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‘A Post-Roe World’: Illinois Prepares to Be a Safe Haven for Texans Seeking Abortions

 

In the days leading up to and after Texas’ restrictive abortion law went into effect, clinics in surrounding states became overbooked, diverting patients further away. The Texas law bans abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant, without any exceptions for rape and incest.

One Planned Parenthood clinic in the southern Illinois town of Fairview Heights, in particular, is feeling the reverberations of the Texas law in the form of dozens of women forced to travel hundreds of miles just to secure an appointment. Despite facing its own challenges, including staff shortages and similar legislation up for consideration across the border in Missouri, the Illinois clinic said it is fully prepared to welcome any woman who needs medical care.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The clinic has long been preparing for what it calls “the writing on the wall,” according to Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, which oversees the Fairview Heights clinic. “This is the reality that we have been seeing for a long time, and we’ve been preparing for a post-Roe world with a plan to ensure abortion services remain accessible with this clinic.”

The past month has shown that access is not just a Texas problem because when it is lost in one state, that creates a ripple effect as far out as Fairview Heights, where appointment times are being quickly filled. Over the last week, the clinic has seen patients from Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas. But no matter how packed the appointment books get, “No one will be turned away,” Rodriguez stated.

The clinic, a $10 million investment by Planned Parenthood and Hope Clinic, sits on the southwest border of the state just 15 minutes from St. Louis, and was built in preparation for abortion bans and restrictions in neighboring states. It has the capacity to handle up to 15,000 patients per year.

Illinois stands as a lone refuge in the Midwest giving unencumbered access to abortion services with the Reproductive Health Act, which also ensures access to pregnancy care and birth control. Sponsors of the act emphasized in legislative sessions the importance of its protections should the landmark Roe v. Wade decision be overturned. The Supreme Court said in May that it would consider the legality of Mississippi’s abortion ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy in its upcoming fall term.

The law will protect the right to choose regardless of what happens with Roe v. Wade, said Jennifer Welch, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “As other states put more barriers into place for people to access this health care, we know that patients will turn to Illinois and we could see tens of thousands of patients if other states follow Texas’ example or if the Supreme court further erodes abortion protection in their upcoming case.”



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