ST. LOUIS — In the 11 months after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region’s health center in Fairview Heights, Illinois, saw a 35 percent increase in total abortion patients. More than 40 percent of abortion patients — a 700 percent increase — traveled to Illinois from outside of the bi-state region of Missouri and Illinois. Among the many harms created by abortion bans, patients are experiencing delays in care due to increased hurdles like travel, child care, taking time off work, resources, and limited provider availability. These delays are causing patients to seek care later than they’d like; patients seeking care later in pregnancy have increased 32 percent at the Southern Illinois health center.
Planned Parenthood anticipated the increased demand due to the Dobbs decision when it opened the Regional Logistics Center (RLC), a first-of-its-kind patient navigation center and partnership with Hope Clinic, which opened in January 2022. Through the RLC, Planned Parenthood has provided nearly $850,000 in travel and lodging assistance for patients coming to the Fairview Heights health center and Hope Clinic, an independent provider. More than 90 percent of funds were disbursed after the Dobbs ruling. Additionally, nearly three million dollars in assistance from abortion funds nationwide have been used to navigate more than 7,000 patients seeking care in Southern Illinois, as well as to help cover the costs of the procedure.
Statement from Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region:
“We’ve been helping Missourians access abortion in Southern Illinois since long before Roe was overturned. And since Dobbs, we have expanded our capacity, resources, and footprint to help patients from all over the country, but mostly from the South, who are fleeing their home states in search of health care. Our years of navigating cruel and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions in Missouri prepared us for this national public health crisis. We will not back down from this fight; we’ll continue to do all we can to serve our patients who are bearing the brunt of this dark moment.
“I’ve never been more proud to work with a team that centers patient access with every decision; while we work to ensure people can get care today, we’re also planning for a future where everyone has the bodily autonomy they deserve. The Roe framework was a model that started with compromises against some bodies and ended in bans against all of our bodies. This anniversary is another reminder that we must learn and do better. We must commit to building a future with abortion equity front and center. This means not just securing rights or access on paper, but ensuring meaningful access for all people.”
The vast majority of patients coming from outside the bi-state region are coming from the South, where abortion is uniformly banned or restricted; the Fairview Heights health center is a critical access point for much of the South. This health center is the closest or most accessible provider for many places in Southern states that have banned abortion; while there may be closer providers in other states, due to restrictions and increased wait times, Southern Illinois providers may be a patient’s best option.
Data points, adaptations, and innovations from the past 11 months:
- Procedural abortion increased by 57 percent while abortions 14 weeks or later increased by 32 percent
- Medication abortion increased by 21 percent, making up 56 percent of all abortion appointments
- Patients are traveling to Illinois from 29 states (including Missouri), making up 85 percent of all abortion patients
- Vasectomy appointments increased by 97 percent
- Announced the first Planned Parenthood mobile abortion clinic
- Expanded hours to six days a week and 10 hours a day
In order to meet the increased patient demand, Planned Parenthood advocated strongly for Illinois legislation to expand the pool of abortion providers to include advanced practice clinicians (such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants). Thanks to Senator Celina Villanueva’s and Representative Kelly Cassidy’s leadership, House Bill 4664 passed the General Assembly and was quickly signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker. One month after the bill became law, Planned Parenthood celebrated the first procedural abortion provided by an APC in Illinois.
Planned Parenthood continues to work with advocates and providers with a patient-centered approach, grounded in their experience of providing abortions in a hostile state, to build abortion access that is available for everyone who needs it no matter their identity, insurance status, or zip code.