With Abortion Access Under Attack, Logistics Center in Illinois Renews Hope

Jan 21, 2022 at 4:13 pm
Planned Parenthood supporters at a rally. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Planned Parenthood supporters at a rally.

As abortion access continues to be targeted by various states, including Missouri, a partnership between the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and the Hope Clinic for Women has built a solution: A logistics center to help patients overcome barriers to abortion access.

Known as the Regional Logistics Center, the organization operates as a call center that can connect patients with existing resources like abortion funds — and even arrange travel and lodging while they wait for care. In its first weeks of operation, the center has helped provide 138 flights and rides to clinics.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and representatives from Planned Parenthood and Hope Clinic for Women were all in attendance for the center's virtual ribbon cutting and press conference on Friday. Pritzker applauded the efforts of Planned Parenthood and the Hope Clinic for Women, saying he is “grateful for partners who have responded to these growing threats with an ever-increasing commitment to serve patients in need."

"Illinois is, and will continue to be, a beacon of hope in the heart of this nation when it comes to standing up for fundamental rights,” Pritzker added.

The Illinois governor signed the Reproductive Health Act into law in 2019, ensuring access to abortion was available in his state.

The new center opens just as the United States Supreme Court Case Roe v. Wade decision marks its 49th anniversary. Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said while this could “very well be the last year we honor Roe v. Wade as the law of the land,” the collective work on opening the center brings her hope for the future.

“Together, we’re breaking down the silos anti-abortion politicians created," Rodríguez said during the press conference, “and proving that in community, with innovation, and determination, we can secure a future with abortion access, which Roe never guaranteed.”

The United States Supreme Court is currently debating a Mississippi law that presents a direct challenge to the historic abortion case. Rodríguez said the center has been in the works since 2019, so this wasn’t in direct response to the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, the organization is ready to scale up its services if necessary.

Since the restrictive Texas law that banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy passed, Reproductive Health Services “has seen a 53 percent increase in patients traveling from outside their normal service area, compared to the same time frame one year ago,” the health provider said.

Dr. Erin King, the executive director of Hope Clinic for Women, was in attendance for the ceremony. She said that her clinic continues to see the impact of laws like Texas’. In an interview with the RFT last month, King estimated a “quick and significant” increase in patients if the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law that issues a direct challenge to Roe.

“We continue to see the ramifications of limiting abortion access,” King said at today's conference. “The laws are pushing patients further and further out of their own communities and healthcare systems. As a physician, directly caring for patients every day, I listen to story after story of the work it took a patient to find a healthcare provider they trusted.”

King said this project shows what’s possible when reproductive health, justice and rights leaders come together.

Amid the news of the logistics center, the organizers all took a minute to praise the work abortion funds have been doing amid the laws being passed to restrict access to care. Since September 1 — the day Texas' abortion ban went into effect — abortion funds from several states have provided $73,000 in financial assistance for 828 patients traveling to southern Illinois for care.

All of the leaders committed to creating a safe space in Illinois where patients can come to get their needs met, regardless of what happens with Roe. Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, who appeared at the press conference along with Pritzker, said that in Illinois, bodily autonomy is a right that cannot be legislated away and that their administration has ensured that.

"We proudly stand on the right side of history alongside the activists, organizers, community members, and vital organizations who work every day to ensure equitable access to care," Stratton added. "We are sending a message to the nation that when anti-choice laws seek to criminalize and cause harm, Illinois will act swiftly and decisively with policy and resources.”

Follow Jenna on Twitter at @writesjenna. Email the author at [email protected]
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