Why we must defend abortion access
By Dr. Amy Whitaker | Oct. 11, 2021, 1:48 p.m.
Category: Abortion Access
Dr. Amy Whitaker is the Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood of Illinois.
I am proud to be an abortion provider in Illinois, especially at a time when access is hanging by a thread in many parts of the country. Texas enacted an unconstitutional 6-week abortion ban in September that sets a dangerous legal precedent—and because the Supreme Court let it stand, we are already seeing other states, including some of Illinois’ neighbors, considering similar measures.
This is the loudest alarm yet that abortion rights are in grave danger, in Texas and nationwide. We need you to stay in this fight with us and defend abortion access.
As an abortion provider, I see firsthand how grateful my patients are to be able to access safe, legal, and compassionate abortion care close to home. Abortion care is essential because abortion is health care. It’s also very common — one in four women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Which is why what’s happening in Texas is so infuriating and heartbreaking.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois started seeing patients from Texas within days of their abortion ban going into effect. Recently, we saw a young college student who flew to Chicago from Texas for an early, first trimester abortion. She had to cross the country for care because by the time she discovered she was pregnant and could get in for an appointment, she was already five days past the new legal cutoff in her home state.CBS News: Women head to Chicago abortion clinics all the way from Texas, where near-total ban is in effect
When she had her ultrasound in Texas, the waiting room was filled with people facing the same daunting dilemma: overcome the barriers and cost of travel to another state like Illinois or carry a pregnancy to term against their will.
Our patient was incredibly fortunate to have the means to get on a plane to get an abortion in a safe and compassionate environment. Not everyone is so lucky. In fact, bans like this disproportionately hurt patients who already face immense barriers to accessing essential health care, such as Black and Latinx folks, people with low incomes, people with disabilities, and people who live in rural areas.
This patient was also fortunate because she was older than 18. If she was any younger, she would have been blocked by the last remaining barrier to care in Illinois: the Parental Notification of Abortion Act (PNA).Blog: PNA harms young people already facing challenges
In Illinois, people who are under 18 are legally required to notify an adult family member—a parent, grandparent, step-parent living in the home, or legal guardian—before they can get an abortion. If a young person can’t notify an adult, they have to seek a judicial bypass, which can be a stigmatizing experience and unnecessarily delay care.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Right now, every one of us has the power to make a difference, both in Texas and here in Illinois. Here’s how:
The good news is that abortion is still safe and legal in Illinois. We do not have medically unnecessary waiting periods, mandatory false counseling, or outdated and unnecessary ultrasound restrictions. We are a safe state for the patients coming to us from care, from around the Midwest and beyond.
But we need to continue to defend access to abortion. Illinois’ Reproductive Health Act (RHA) recognizes abortion as health care, not criminal activity, and ensures abortion will remain legal in our state even if Roe v. Wade dismantled or overruled. But we can’t afford to get complacent. The RHA is just a law—and it could be overturned or rolled back by future Governors and legislatures.
Pro-choice champions in Illinois need to stay vigilant and fight for progressive legislation that guarantees meaningful access to sexual and reproductive health care. Together, we can ensure future generations have access to safe, legal abortion—no matter what.