Planned Parenthood resource center for out-of-state patients opens near Missouri border

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 4, 2019 file photo, a Planned Parenthood clinic is seen in St....
FILE - In this Tuesday, June 4, 2019 file photo, a Planned Parenthood clinic is seen in St. Louis.(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 2:52 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Just 15 miles from the Missouri border in Fairview Heights, Planned Parenthood of St Louis and Southwest Missouri opened a regional logistic center aiming to connect out-of-state patients with resources to make seeking their abortion easier.

The center will act as a concierge service for Illinois, directing prospective patients to available hotels, traveling accommodations and other services they might need. They also may direct patients to funds and resources if they need help affording the appointment.

PPSLR has offered these services before, but now have a dedicated center for figuring out practical issues. Director of Patient Access Kawana Shannon said she’s always received calls like this.

“I have seen so many patients forced into unnecessarily impossible situations in order to access abortion,” she said.

“My phone rings at all hours of the day and night, patients who face unexpected hurdles like broken down cars that won’t get them to our health centers, patients who need an extra night of clinical support,” Shannon continued. “The phone calls are happening more frequently, more urgently, patients want to get in as soon as possible.”

The concept for the center started developing in 2019. PPSLR President and CEO Yasmelsie Rodriguez said the center was not specifically inspired by the increasing possibility of landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade getting overturned.

However, she said the “writing on the wall”, such as Texas’ ban of abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and Missouri closing all Planned Parenthoods but one, caused them to making out-of-state patients feel welcome. Since 2019, Rodriguez said their patients consistently come from at least seven other states in the region. Over half of their patients, 52%, come from outside their service area.

In the three weeks since the program started, the center has provided 138 rides and housed dozens of patients, according to PPSLR.

“Our goal was not to reinvent the wheel,” Rodriguez said of the center, “but really be a connector and sort of a one-stop shop where we can take care of patients holistically, not just via appointment scheduling but acknowledging that in order to get to their appointments, patients still face a lot of barriers.”

PPSL partnered with Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois, which is in northern St Louis, right on the border. Together, they put $10 million towards developing the logistics center. The center also accepts donations on their website.

“We’ve saw an explosion in not just the amount of patients who needed funding and logistical support, but travel support,” Dr. Erin King of Hope Clinic for women said.

The regional center follows other measures Illinois has taken to be an abortion oasis. In December, Gov. JB Pritzker signed a law repealing the Parental Notification Act, which was one of the final restrictions of abortions in Illinois. In June 2019, Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act, solidifying abortion rights in Illinois.

“With reproductive rights under attack across the United States, it’s never been more vital for the state of Illinois to ensure access to reproductive services,” Pritzker said.

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