The landmark decision of Roe v. Wade protected Americans’ access to abortion for 50 years. In June, the Supreme Court overturned that decision with its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Since then, states with so-called “trigger laws” have come into effect, immediately cutting off abortion care across the country.The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a nonprofit organization that offers healthcare and family planning.
PPFA, which is able to provide its services through programs such as Medicaid or from government grants from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), announced that they will soon be helping patients in states where abortion is illegal—on wheels.
PPFA announced that they will be opening their first mobile clinic in southern Illinois, which will begin offering consultations to patients and abortion pills later this year. The mobile clinic’s goal is to remain in a state where abortion access is still legal, but to be close enough to patients in Republican states where the medical procedure is banned, so those looking for abortion care will not have to travel as far.
The mobile clinic will be inside an RV and will include a waiting room, a laboratory, and two exam rooms. But the care will not change from how PPFA usually handles medication abortion, as patients will be given a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved pill called mifepristone followed by another tablet up to 48 hours later called misoprostol.
“The only thing that will change is the fact that now they might only have to drive five hours instead of nine hours,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, the chief medical officer for PPFA for the Illinois region.
Shortly after SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade, the story of a 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio drew national attention when it was revealed in the media that she had to travel out of her home state to Indiana for her abortion.
“Our goal is to reduce the hundreds of miles that people are having to travel now in order to access care…and meet them where they are,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president of PPFA of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. “It gives us a lot of flexibility about where to be.”
PPFA had already opened a clinic in 2019 in Fairview Heights, Illinois, which faces the state line of St. Louis, Missouri, where it is illegal to get an abortion except in cases of medical emergencies. The state of Missouri makes no exceptions for rape or incest. The clinic in Fairview Heights is expected to receive about 14,000 patients a year, adding that they saw a four-fold increase in patients coming from outside Illinois after the Dobbs decision was issued.
But even before nearly 21 million girls and women lost their access to abortion care in the United States, many were being forced to travel to get the healthcare they needed. In 2020, nearly one in 10 abortions were performed for those who had to cross state lines, which was a 6% increase from 2011.
After the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down their controversial ruling on Roe v. Wade, overturning a 50-year precedent which protected the rights of Americans to make their own decisions about their health care, states began to implement so-called trigger laws, banning access to abortion almost immediately. Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota, and Wisconsin were among the states to put these bans into effect.
Abortion is now banned completely banned in 14 states, and is banned in another four states based on how long the patient has been pregnant, and an additional nine states have attempted to ban abortion but have had those efforts blocked.
PPFA says if their mobile clinic is successful, they may expand and add more in the future. Access to abortion pills by mail was also relaxed by the FDA, allowing an organization called Just the Pill to announce mobile clinic-based medication abortion care to patients in the West and Midwest.
“We are all trying to work together to meet the exponential increase in the number of patients that are traveling from banned states to what we’re calling ‘haven states’ for abortion care,” Rodriguez said. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment.”
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