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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Blue State abortion providers prepare for huge surge in new patients

This article is part of a larger series called “The End of Row.” head Here to read more.

An upcoming US Supreme Court ruling on abortion is expected to increase access to the procedure, as we know it, leaving a patchwork of states in its place where the legal right to abortion varies and restricts patients to those places. Where the process remains safe and accessible.

“This will truly be a public health crisis like this country has never seen before,” Dr. Colleen McNichols, who serves as chief medical officer for the reproductive health services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Area, or PPSLR.

“We are now going to massively mobilize thousands — maybe millions — of people for basic reproductive health care,” she said of patients in 22 states who were ruled by the court in Roe v. Wade which a blazingly leaked draft indicates the judges are planning to do.

The Planned Parenthood branch of McNicholas operates the only remaining abortion clinic in Missouri and one on the border in Illinois, which opened in 2019 as part of the fight over abortion in Missouri. Abortion providers in deep blue Illinois, meanwhile, are gearing up to serve as a so-called “abortion island,” surrounded by a sea of ​​states, to cancel the procedure as soon as the court strikes Row. ready for.

“This will truly be a public health crisis this country has never seen before.”

—Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Area Dr. Colleen McNichols

For people in Missouri — where Republican Attorney General Eric Schmidt said a full abortion ban would take effect “immediately” if Roe collapses — Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Wisconsin and beyond, Illinois will soon turn to one of theirs. The nearest destination may be abortion.

“We feel that we have a responsibility as an abortion oasis in this vast desert of care in the Midwest,” said Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. If the court dismisses Roe she is expecting an additional 20,000 to 30,000 patients each year — a huge jump from the nearly 60,000 people seen annually by the provider in recent years.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, or PPRM, has a similar sentiment, which operates in several mountain western states, with two poised to become abortion safe havens: Colorado and New Mexico.

PPRM’s medical director, Dr. Christina Tosse, spoke candidly when asked if she believed she would be able to meet the demand. “Not at all,” she said. “I believe that we are going to provide excellent, safe, compassionate abortion care to more and more patients who will be more patients than ever before, but if you just look at the numbers… just such an exponential growth.”

Tosse stressed that more than 30 million women and girls of reproductive age in the US are at risk of losing access to legal abortion in their states. Realistically, she said, “there are going to be patients who just can’t access care.”

Employees of a family planning clinic in Chicago become emotional when thousands of abortion rights protesters marched in support of their clinic’s name last month.

Scott Olson via Getty Images

If Roe collapses, abortion providers in Colorado and New Mexico will be the closest abortion destinations for many people in states including Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and Nebraska, whose access is likely to be cut off. They’re already seeing a huge influx of patients from Texas, which banned six-week abortions last September, and Oklahoma, which conformed to an even more restrictive law.

Expanding telemedicine services is essential to meet demand, Tose said, noting that PPRM has begun to broaden those systems in recent years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For most of the first trimester, the pregnancy can be terminated with a series of prescribed pills, which do not require a trip to the clinic.

“If we can take care of as many patients as we can outside of brick-and-mortar facilities, that will be very important in getting patients who need to come in person to those centers,” she said. .

In Illinois, Welch said, they have been preparing for Roe’s downfall since the day former President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

“Every time that president got another nominee on the Supreme Court, we knew it was over,” she said of abortion protection.

Since then, the Illinois branch has launched a massive fundraising campaign, doubling the size of some existing clinics and building new ones along state borders that are hostile to abortion, including one near Indiana in 2018 and one in 2020. Wisconsin has one included. ‘Welcoming clinic staff out of any state who wish to begin assisting with growth in Illinois.

“Clinics are turning every available space into procedure rooms, and that’s not enough to meet the need.”

—Elizabeth Nash, state policy specialist at the Guttmacher Institute

Additional capacity for abortion care has already proved necessary in recent years as access has been reduced in nearby states with mandatory waiting periods, medically unnecessary ultrasounds and other barriers. Abortion is banned in Texas and Oklahoma—which relied on legal loopholes to proceed without the Supreme Court Come The ruling has only increased that requirement in recent months.

Elizabeth Nash, a state policy expert at the Guttmacher Institute, said due to absorbing patients from Texas and Oklahoma and a national health care worker shortage, it’s not unusual for clinics to schedule appointments two to four weeks in advance.

If the court dismissed Roe as expected, Nash said, “I’m guessing the influx of patients will be such that the waiting time will extend beyond that.”

“Clinics are turning every available space into procedure rooms, and that’s not enough to meet the need,” she said of the Blue States’ efforts to absorb new patients.

Longer waiting times for an abortion may mean that patients require a more involved procedure and take longer to recover. A clinic in Colorado, another abortion island state, told Kaiser Health News in March that it had recently purchased equipment enabling staff to perform abortions up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy in anticipation of longer wait times.

The PPSLR has seen a 50% increase in abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy since the Texas ban went into effect last year.

Along with staffing needs, McNicholas’ biggest concern is ensuring practical support for patients who must leave their home states for abortion care.

“We can add another 150 clinics in Illinois, but if patients can’t get to them, it doesn’t matter,” she said.

Planned Parenthood Clinics In St. Louis — Like Many Others Across The Country — Is Gearing Up To End Abortion Services If The Supreme Court Finds Roe V.  Wade Rejected.
Planned Parenthood Clinics in St. Louis — like many others across the country — is gearing up to end abortion services if the Supreme Court finds Roe v. Wade rejected.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Getty Images

Key to that venture, McNichols said, is a regional logistics center that PPSLR opened in January in partnership with Illinois abortion provider Hope Clinic near the Missouri border. There, case workers are helping patients make sure the cost of their treatment is covered by abortion funds and connecting them to practical support organizations focused on helping patients travel for abortion care.

This can be a costly endeavor. Fund Texas Choice, a group that has been helping patients traveling for abortions since 2013, told HuffPost last year that out-of-state trips can add at least $800 to abortion costs. That includes transportation, housing, food, medicine, and child care.

“The health care part is the easy part,” McNicholas said, adding that she believes the PPSLR and Hope Clinic can handle the 15,000 new patients annually they expect to come to southern Illinois for an abortion. Huh. “But we have to be able to really manage the navigation piece and the logistics piece that people are going to face.”

While the logistics center currently has four case workers on staff, who are trained to help navigate more than 50 different abortion funds, it expects to hire 14 additional employees, McNicollas said.

Welch said that simply informing people that abortion will remain legal in some states at this point in time is also important for Roe Falls.

“We have patients calling and asking, ‘Can I still come to my appointment? Is it illegal yet?'” she said. “It will never be illegal in Illinois; not if we have anything to say about it.”

World Nation News Desk
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