CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois has been treating an “unprecedented number of out-of-state patients” after Roe v. Wade was abolished six months ago.
About a third of Illinois’ Planned Parenthood patients are now from out of state, according to the Chicago Tribune. About only 6% of the provider’s patients were from out-of-state before Roe was abolished back in June.
“It is clear that abortion bans don’t stop people from having or needing abortions, they just make it more difficult to access care,” said Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “The number of patients from other states forced to travel to our health centers is at a historic high.”
Patients used to come from about 10-15 different states each month, but that number has now jumped to patients from 31 states.
“We’re also seeing more patients than ever before from Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky and Texas,” Welch said.
Sixteen states enacted near to total abortion bans after Roe v. Wade was overturned. While four states had their abortion bans blocked by courts, 50 restrictions were adopted nationwide in 2022. That was down from the more than 100 anti-abortion laws enacted in 2021.
“However, many of the laws passed this year are near-total abortion bans,” said a report by the Guttmacher Institue, a research group supporting abortion rights.. “Combined with the implementation of pre-Roe laws and trigger bans that had been enacted in previous years, these laws have restricted abortion access for millions of people.”
Many of those states are near Illinois, where abortion remains legal. Because of this, many patients have made the trip to the Land of Lincoln.
“Surrounded by states where abortion is now unavailable and even criminalized, Illinois is a critical access point for those seeking care in the Midwest and South,” said Elisabeth Smith, director of state policy and advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “There has been a massive influx of patients from across the region, and Illinois providers have shown incredible resolve and determination to provide care to those who need it.”
Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, said that Illinois has become “the abortion capital of the U.S.”
“Abortion providers and the government of Illinois are working to draw women here from across the region for abortions,” he said. “This is bound to have an impact on people’s reproductive choices. Poor women throughout the Midwest are being told they need abortions in Illinois — not affordable housing, or adequate health care, or better child care options, but just abortion.”
Though many states cut back on abortion access, Illinois expanded in many ways, including a new abortion clinic in Southern Illinois. “Choices: Center for Reproductive Health” is a Memphis-based provider. Since an abortion ban went into effect in Tennessee in August, “Choices” opened the clinic in Carbondale in October, which is only a couple of hours from Memphis and Nashville.
The new clinic served 317 patients from 14 states in October and November alone.
“Nearly 180 people traveled from Tennessee, and right behind that Mississippi,” Choices said in a statement. “The third-most people came from Arkansas and then Illinois. We had people traveling from as far as New York, Florida and Texas.”
In addition to the new clinic in Carbondale, Planned Parenthood increased space and expanded abortion services at a Champaign clinic.
“We had no doubt that the multimillion-dollar abortion industry in Illinois would seek to profit from the end of Roe,” said Amy Gehrke, executive director of Illinois Right to Life. “The abortion industry isn’t working to empower women; it’s seeking to profit from their fear and the deaths of their children. This is particularly tragic since abortion laws in Illinois do little to provide for women’s health and safety.”
A clinic near the Missouri border saw a 300% increase in patients traveling from other states since Roe v. Wade was overturned. Wait times at the clinic went from a couple days to about three weeks.
Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said that abortion bans affect the entire public health system.
“How doctors can treat their patients, when and how a patient gets treated, and who can even get treated,” she said. “In reality, medical professionals have to wait for lawyers to determine if and when a pregnant person is sick enough to receive abortion care. … Abortion providers and advocates have been ringing the alarm bells for years about what would happen when Roe fell. The public health crisis that we’re experiencing was predictable and preventable.”