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Planned Parenthood Announces Plans for Mobile Abortion Clinic in Illinois to Serve Neighboring States

Planned Parenthood officials announced plans Monday for a mobile abortion clinic: a 37-foot RV that will remain in Illinois but travel close to the borders of adjoining states that have banned the procedure since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year.

The announcement came 100 days after the Supreme Court ruling which removed constitutional protections for abortions, allowing states to ban the procedure. Illinois did not institute an abortion ban, but neighboring Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee did, along with several other states in the South and Midwest.

As a result, both abortion clinics on the Illinois side of the St. Louis region, including one operated by Family planning in Fairview Heights, they have been inundated with patients. Leaders at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood office said that since June, the Fairview Heights clinic has seen a 30% increase in patients having abortions, a rate officials said was even higher than they expected. . Patients from outside of Missouri and Illinois increased by more than 340%.

The rush of patients means longer waits. Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis and Southwest Missouri region, said wait times for abortion appointments have gone from an average of four days before the Supreme Court ruling to two weeks and a half.

“The mobile abortion clinic is a way to reduce travel times and distances to find patients at the Illinois border,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, medical director of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis office. “This will have a dramatic impact on their access.”

The mobile clinic will travel near the borders of southeastern Missouri, western Kentucky and northeastern Tennessee. Rodriguez said the RV is expected to arrive this month and should be operational by the end of the year.

The clinic will include two exam rooms, a laboratory and a waiting room. Initially, it will provide medical abortions up to 11 weeks gestation. Planned Parenthood will try to start offering in-clinic surgical abortions after the first few months.

McNicholas and Rodriguez refused to discuss security and protection measures for the mobile clinic.

Laura Echevarría, a spokeswoman for the National Committee for the Right to Life, which opposes abortion, called the mobile abortion clinic “another grotesque degrading of human life.”

“Chemical abortions can lead to life-threatening complications,” Echevarria said in a statement. “Will women recognize those complications early enough to seek treatment?”

Other efforts have been launched across the country to increase access to abortion.

The nonprofit organization Just The Pill operates a mobile clinic in Colorado that offers medical abortions. Spokeswoman Kat Mavengere said that early next year, also in Colorado, Just The Pill will operate a mobile clinic for abortion procedures. The organization also plans to expand to other areas, starting with a mobile clinic in Illinois in 2023.

In July, a California doctor proposed a floating abortion clinic in the Gulf of Mexico as a way to maintain access for people in southern states where abortion bans have been enacted. Dr. Meg Autry said the idea was to provide a clinic aboard a ship in federal waters and outside the reach of state law.

Meanwhile, some Democratic-led cities like St. Louis have set aside money to help pregnant women travel to states where abortions are legal.

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