With a growing number of patients in states that now ban abortion traveling for the procedure, Planned Parenthood announces that it will soon open its first mobile abortion clinic in the nation, in southern Illinois.
Credit: Planned Parenthood
“Our goal is to reduce the hundreds of miles people have to travel now to access care…and meet them where they are,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis area and of southwestern Missouri. , said in an interview with NPR.
The mobile clinic will begin offering consultations and dispensing abortion pills later this year. It will work in Illinois, where abortion remains legal, but may move closer to neighboring state borders, reducing the distance many patients travel for the procedure.
“It gives us a lot of flexibility as to where to be,” Rodriguez said.
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Illinois has become a hub for people from other parts of the Midwest and South who became unable to have abortions in their home state following the overturning of the state Supreme Court’s ruling. United this summer. Roe vs. Wade.
Anticipating this possibility, Planned Parenthood opened a large clinic in 2019 in Fairview Heights, Illinois, just across the border from St. Louis. Missouri had some of the strictest abortion laws in the country even before the court issued the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, and state officials moved almost immediately to implement abortion bans in response to it.
The Fairview Heights clinic is expected to see about 14,000 patients traveling from across the region each year, an increase that “is materializing much, much faster than expected,” Rodriguez said. “We just need more access points.”
The mobile facility – housed inside a recreational vehicle – will include a small waiting room, a lab and two exam rooms. It will initially provide medical abortion up to 11 weeks gestation, officials said. It will eventually offer surgical abortions, probably starting next year.
Patients who see health care providers at the mobile clinic will follow the same protocol as those who visit a permanent Planned Parenthood facility, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood in the region. They take mifepristone — the first of a two-drug protocol approved by the Food and Drug Administration — on the spot. They are offered advice on the other drug, misoprostol, which is taken later.
“The only thing that will change is the fact that they may only have to drive for five hours instead of nine hours,” she said.
One of the first tasks will be to determine the best routes for the mobile clinic. The organization is looking at the data to determine where patients are coming from and is looking at health facilities, churches and other locations as potential stopping points. Another important consideration will be the safety and security of patients and staff, McNicholas said.
Officials say they may expand to other mobile units in the future. If the mobile clinic concept is successful, it could be part of a larger strategy to find new ways to reach post-abortion patients.Deer. An organization called Just the Pill also recently announced that it will provide mobile clinic medical abortion care to patients in the Western and Midwestern United States.
“We are all trying to work together to deal with the exponential increase in the number of patients traveling from prohibited states to what we call ‘safe haven states’ for abortion care,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez. “It’s a moment when everyone is on deck.”
Planned Parenthood says between June, when the Dobbs decision was made, and in August the number of patients from outside Missouri or Illinois nearly quadrupled at his clinic in Fairview Heights. The organization is also preparing to open a new family planning clinic in Rolla, Missouri in early November. Rodriguez said it was part of a broader effort to expand services, including contraception, STI testing and transgender care, and to provide reproductive health care in underserved rural areas of the state. .
The reversal of deer set up likely battles between states with a patchwork of different abortion laws. Earlier this year, a Missouri state legislator unsuccessfully proposed allowing people to sue those who help Missouri residents get out-of-state abortions — which she called of “abortion tourism”. That proposal fell through, but legal experts say it’s unclear how conflicts between state laws will be resolved in the future.