Planned Parenthood to launch its first mobile abortion clinic in southern Illinois


Planned Parenthood plans to launch its first mobile abortion clinic in the border regions of southern Illinois by the end of the year, offering medication abortions — and eventually procedural ones.

The organization’s Monday announcement comes 100 days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

And it comes as wait times in Illinois for abortion procedures have skyrocketed from four days to two-and-a-half weeks at Planned Parenthood’s Fairview Heights health center, which is just 20 miles from the Illinois and Missouri border, officials said.

“This 37-foot mobile abortion clinic will help reduce travel distances, wait times and other logistical barriers profoundly impacting patients in neighboring states where abortion is now banned,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

The mobile unit, with two full exam rooms, will be located near the southern border of Illinois. Officials said the mobile unit will be running by the end of the year. It will not provide abortion care in Missouri, where abortion is now banned. Planned Parenthood said the goal is to try to see 30 patients a day.

The unit will initially offer medication abortion, but Planned Parenthood is planning to expand next year to allow for first trimester abortions in the mobile unit, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood in Missouri.

Planned Parenthood also announced it is opening a health care center in Rolla, Missouri, where patients can access birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, annual exams and vasectomies. Officials said vasectomy patients have increased by more than 240% across Missouri and in southern Illinois since the Supreme Court decision.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, sits in a surgical room at the clinic in Fairview Heights in April.

The mobile unit will be Planned Parenthood’s first, although the organization has mobile clinics operating in other states to provide family planning services. An organization called Just The Pill recently announced it would be operating mobile abortion clinics.

Rodriguez said the decision to create a mobile abortion clinic was made in anticipation of more restrictive abortion state laws throughout the country. Legislation proposed in March in Missouri would make it illegal for a woman to cross lines to get an abortion.

“We are focusing right now on doubling down our efforts to ensure health care remains available and accessible to all,” Rodriguez said. “And on the back end, we will continue to do what we’ve always done, fight with our supporters to ensure we can continue to protect the care Planned Parenthood provides in Missouri and in Illinois.”

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights, Ill. 

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights, Ill.

Although Gov. J.B. Pritzker on June 24 vowed to call the Illinois General Assembly back to Springfield to “further enshrine” reproductive rights in the state, lawmakers are still meeting in working groups to hammer out legislative fixes.

Those discussions involve legislation to protect medical providers from legal, criminal and civil liability, expanding the capacity of providers who can provide abortions — and measures to protect and grow clinics.

Pritzker in Augustannounced an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates for abortion services, and state public health officials announced an additional $2 million in grants for providers offering family planning services.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference at Planned Parenthood of Illinois in August.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference at Planned Parenthood of Illinois in August.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

Pritzker’s reelection campaign on Monday applauded Planned Parenthood’s announcement, while also jabbing his Republican opponent, state Sen. Darren Bailey, for his anti-abortion platform.

“It is tragic that we have to take these kind of steps to guarantee women access to their fundamental rights, but we applaud Planned Parenthood and the dedicated advocates that worked to make this lifesaving care available,” Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein said. “So long as politicians like Darren Bailey threaten to make abortion illegal, our work won’t be done.

Bailey’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Planned Parenthood announcement. Bailey has previously pushed for legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks, except in cases of medical emergencies and also proposed banning Medicaid funding for the procedures.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey talks about the leak of the draft of the Supreme Court decision at a Chicago news conference in May.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey talks about the leak of the draft of the Supreme Court decision at a Chicago news conference in May.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times file

But he has softened his tone in recent weeks as Election Day draws closer, insisting that Illinois already has some of the strongest abortion rights bills in the books, and “women are well-protected in Illinois,” he told WBEZ. Bailey echoed that sentiment at a Daily Herald forum on Friday.

“Women’s rights are well-protected here. Nothing’s changing. I couldn’t change it if I wanted to,” Bailey during the virtual forum. “Gov. Pritzker is staying up at night thinking up new rights.”





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