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Illinois abortion clinics struggling to keep up with hugely increased demand

Tuesday, Sep 13, 2022 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Surrounded by states with abortion restrictions, Illinois remains an oasis for out of state abortion seekers. Better Government Association

By the time word spread of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to reverse the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade, an Illinois-based hotline for one of the country’s largest abortion support funds was already about to close for the weekend.

When it reopened Monday morning, the staff was stunned to find 200 missed calls for help waiting for them. Overwhelmed, they had to shut down the line for the week — the first time in the Midwest Access Coalition’s 8-year history — just to catch up. […]

One clinic in the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis saw a nearly 30% increase in those seeking abortions from June to August. In Chicago, one non-profit abortion support group served 4,000 clients this year, already 1,000 more than all of 2021.

“We’re expecting tens of thousands more people to come to Illinois,” said Alicia Hurtado, communications and advocacy manager at the Chicago Abortion Fund, a non-profit group to support abortion access. “We’re just hopeful we can continue to be there for our neighbors, but it’s going to take deep investment.” […]

“We’re expecting tens of thousands more people to come to Illinois,” said Alicia Hurtado, communications and advocacy manager at the Chicago Abortion Fund, a non-profit group to support abortion access. “We’re just hopeful we can continue to be there for our neighbors, but it’s going to take deep investment.”

Since it was founded in 2014, the Midwest Access Coalition supported a total of 3,000 abortion patients. Last year, across a 12-state midwest region, the coalition spent $120,000 on hotels, $15,000 for food and $55,000 on flights, according to its 2021 impact report.

The coalition’s fund helped 800 people in all of 2021. This year, they hit that number in July. As of Sept. 2, the coalition served 1,050 clients with meals, hotels and travel expenses, Dreith said.

“This is a healthcare issue, this is a basic human rights issue and we are in a crisis moment and Illinois needs to act legislatively like we’re in a crisis moment,” said Dreith. “Lives are on the line as far as freedom goes as we see more and more criminalization for providing and accessing health care.

* Axios reports out of state patients cause backlogs in care and are forcing some to have the procedure later in their pregnancies, when treatment is more intensive and costs are higher

Experts believe that as clinics struggle with demand, the number of abortions performed after the 13th week of pregnancy — which is around the end of the first trimester — might increase.

The procedures can be harder to obtain, because “as pregnancy progresses, the number of people who are skilled to provide that care further goes down,” Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told Axios.

By the numbers: About 93% of reported abortions in 2019 were performed at or before 13 weeks of pregnancy, 6% were conducted between 14 and 20 weeks and 1% were performed at or after 21 weeks, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At an Illinois clinic, patients from states other than Missouri and Illinois have risen to 40% of cases, compared to 5% before the federal right to abortion was struck down.

* Tennessee already has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies in the country, and abstinence-only sex education is taught in schools, NPR reports

Abortion restrictions and bans across the South are forcing people to travel hundreds of miles to get the procedure in states that still allow it. It’s a massive barrier, especially for pregnant teenagers. They have to navigate laws around parental permission, too. For years, Tennessee teens traveled to Nashville to get a judge’s permission for an abortion instead of telling their parents. From member station WPLN, Paige Pfleger reports on what options are left for those teens now. […]

PFLEGER: For years, teens traveled from all over Tennessee to ask Judge Calloway for something called a judicial bypass. It was a rarely talked about part of Tennessee law that let young people go to a judge instead of their parents for permission to get an abortion. Calloway would approve about 10 each year. And half the time, she says teens don’t want to tell their families because they were raped or assaulted, sometimes by a family member.

CALLOWAY: There are at least 10 girls in our community each year that will be forced to have a pregnancy that either they’re not ready for, they’re not prepared for, and they’re going to be forced to do so, even if it is a situation as incest, which has happened.

PFLEGER: Tennessee now has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, with no exception for rape, incest or minors, and a narrow legal defense for the life of the pregnant person. Judicial bypasses are off the table. Welty says she cried when she heard the news. She immediately thought of the teens who would still need help and wouldn’t be able to get any.

* Reuters

The women’s health clinic in Bristol, Tennessee, had a seemingly simple solution to continue providing abortions after its home state banned the procedure this summer: It moved a mile up the road to Bristol, Virginia, where abortion remained legal. […]

Abortion is still allowed in Virginia through the second trimester and into the third in limited circumstances. In a recent poll of state residents, half said they believed the state’s abortion laws were reasonable and should not be altered.

But many in Bristol, Virginia, where Republican Donald Trump won 68% of the vote in the 2020 presidential election, were unhappy to see an abortion clinic come to the city of about 17,000 people.

Anthony Farnum, mayor of Bristol, Virginia, soon received dozens of calls, texts and emails from residents asking him to close the clinic. But the mayor explained he had no power to do so as long as Virginia permits abortion.

* Michiganders will vote on abortion rights in November

Friday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, acting under an order from the Michigan Supreme Court, put a question before voters this November on whether to protect abortion rights in the state constitution.

Last week, the question was sent to the state Supreme Court after Republican canvassers argued the amendment’s spacing and formatting would confuse voters. The group behind the amendment, Reproductive Freedom for All, appealed the decision to the state’s highest court. Thursday, the court decided to move it along.

“Ultimately, the system works. It may be put under great stress at times, but it works,” said Republican Michigan Board of State Canvassers Tony Daunt, who followed through on a promise to vote to certify if that’s what the Michigan Supreme Court ordered. Daunt took issue with criticism leveled against the two GOP members for voting not to move the amendment forward. He said the issue of the petition forms had never been addressed before and the court decision set a precedent that future boards would now have to follow.

“It is really important for us to recognize that this is a victory for the people of Michigan who signed in such record numbers,” said Democratic board member Mary Ellen Gurewitz.

* Google Maps routinely misleads people looking for abortion providers, a new analysis by Bloomberg News has found

In this case, medical doctors and reproductive health advocates said, letting the problem fester while debates rage on could lead to real-world harm. “If Google is a pro-science organization, or even just neutral, they would not want to lead people to these places with false advertising that can be harmful to their lives,” said Allison Cowett, the medical director of Chicago-based Family Planning Associates. “These fake clinics are not on equal footing with folks that are practicing evidence-based medicine.” […]

Cowett, the Chicago doctor, told Bloomberg that there is “absolutely, in bold capital letters” a link between Google Maps providing misleading abortion clinic results and the quality of care women receive in the real world.

She said that in Illinois, which is surrounded by states that have placed limits on abortions, the clinic is booked up for weeks on end. Staff have increased their work hours and scrambled to manage the flood of new appointments booked by patients traveling from states the clinic had never seen on its roster before, including Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

More calls to clinics in places like Illinois means it is much harder to get a staff member on the phone, Cowett said. “That means people looking on the internet, more commonly, and making these appointments online,” she said, including people traveling across state lines for care. “If people are driving 10 or 15 hours to see an abortion provider, it could be devastating for them to make an appointment somewhere which actually does not provide abortion.”

       

3 Comments
  1. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Sep 13, 22 @ 3:52 pm:

    I hope that within a year the abortion providing networks can reconfigure to provide effective coverage for most women. Kansas and Michigan give me hope that a national consensus will develop supporting the use of abortion.

    I thought in 1973 that Roe v. Wade was judicial overreach that established a good policy through bad law. Now we are back to building support for the policy.


  2. - Yooper in Diaspora - Tuesday, Sep 13, 22 @ 9:33 pm:

    A note of appreciation for this detailed gathering of information on abortion-related news in Illinois (and other Midwestern state news on it).


  3. - Mama - Wednesday, Sep 14, 22 @ 12:14 am:

    Abortion is a life saving healthcare issue women need. There is no need for the government to make laws about a girl or a woman’s reproductive healthcare.


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