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With Roe gone, Illinois abortion clinics face surge in patients

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With Roe v. Wade gone, Illinois is one of the few Midwestern states where abortions are still legal. Now the state's abortion clinics are bracing for a surge in out-of-state patients.

Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said its focus is on making sure folks have the resources they need to access abortions across state lines, as nearly all abortions in Missouri are now illegal.

"We are working together with the Pritzker administration to ensure nurse practitioners and physician assistants can practice to the full extent of their training," Rodriguez explained. "Including providing aspiration abortions, commonly known as in-clinic abortions."

St. Louis alders on Friday introduced legislation to start a $1 million abortion fund to provide financial resources to those who need to cross state lines to seek reproductive health care. The measure was referred to the city's Health and Human Services Committee for further deliberation.

Illinois is not only facing a surge on its western border. Kentucky's abortion ban triggered Friday, the Indiana General Assembly is holding a special session next week when lawmakers will likely pass a ban, and an 1849 Wisconsin law outlaws abortions in the state, although the policy will likely face lawsuits.

Qudsiyyah Shariyf, deputy director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, said even before Roe fell, the group was on track to support a record number of people this year, 80% of whom have been from out-of-state.

"The increase in numbers that we've seen is due to many factors," Shariyf pointed out. "It's in response to increased need that we've seen due to more restrictions and bans, as well as the strain of the ongoing global pandemic and economic crisis."

The share of abortions in Illinois provided for out-of-state residents has grown steadily in recent years, according to the state's Department of Public Health. In 2020, about a fifth of all abortions performed in Illinois were for out-of-state residents, most of whom were from Missouri.

Jonah Chester is Wisconsin Public Radio's 2022-2023 Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom. He most recently worked at Public News Service, a national radio news service, where he covered Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. He previously produced the 6 O'Clock News at WORT 89.9 FM in Madison, where he won numerous awards from the Milwaukee Press Club and Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for his reporting on issues in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin.
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