Illinois braces for out-of-state abortions to double or triple with Roe v. Wade overturned

Illinois braces for out-of-state abortions to double or triple with Roe v. Wade overturned
Workers at a family planning clinic watch as thousands of abortion-rights demonstrators march past their clinic chanting support on their way downtown, on May 14, 2022, in Chicago, Illinois.Scott Olson/Getty Images

Illinois is bracing for waves of new people crossing its state lines seeking abortions. The state became an abortion oasis Friday morning, when the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion protections under its previous Roe v. Wade decision.

The states surrounding Illinois responded quickly. Missouri and Kentucky had "trigger laws" in place, which effectively banned abortions Friday. Indiana's Republican governor and legislators prepared to implement new restrictions, possibly a ban, during an upcoming special session in July. In Wisconsin, an 1849 abortion ban kicked back in once the federal protection was revoked, and abortion clinics across the state canceled appointments, though state officials said they would not enforce the pre-Civil War law. Abortion is still legal in Iowa, but the governor said Friday that she would protect "every unborn Iowan," and its legislature is majority Republican.

Illinois is effectively becoming an island of abortion access. It's not just neighboring states. Nearly every state south of Illinois either has a trigger law or a plan to restrict abortions.

"We are expecting the influx to start almost immediately," Brigid Leahy, head of public policy at Planned Parenthood Illinois, told Insider.

Planned Parenthood Illinois expects that the state overall will see an additional 20,000 to 30,000 patients crossing its border to receive abortions each year.


That's double to triple the number of patients Illinois clinics currently absorb from other states. In 2020, Illinois clinics performed fewer than 10,000 out-of-state abortions, accounting for roughly one-fifth of all the state's abortions, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

"Thankfully, the work has been done here in Illinois to protect our rights. But our next step, now that we have our rights protected, is to look at how can we ensure access?" Leahy said.

Patients face major obstacles to abortion and scheduling may get worse

Illinois braces for out-of-state abortions to double or triple with Roe v. Wade overturned
Abortion-rights demonstrators march through the loop during a rally, on May 14, 2022, in Chicago, Illinois.Matt Marton/AP Photo

Anticipating Roe v. Wade being overturned, Planned Parenthood Illinois opened new clinics near the borders of Indiana and Wisconsin in recent years. It now offers abortion pills by mail to Illinois residents. It's considering adding more providers to its pool, even bringing in doctors whose states no longer allow them to perform abortions.

"To a certain extent there's no perfect way to plan, I'll be honest," Leahy said, adding, "It's really hard to know exactly how many people will be coming and exactly where they'll come."

People seeking out-of-state abortions don't always go to the closest place. When Texas banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, in September 2021, many Texans traveled to Chicago for abortions, instead of nearby Oklahoma. Sometimes it was easier and faster to get flights to and from Chicago. Sometimes clinics in Oklahoma were completely booked, Leahy said.


Now, with no federal abortion protections and people flocking to a smaller number of clinics, "there may be an impact on how long it's going to take for you to get an appointment," she said. Appointments may fill up across any state that still performs abortions, including Illinois.

Leahy fears that many people in other states will be unable to find timely appointments, meaning they'll have to travel thousands of miles to get an abortion.

"They have to find a place with an opening and then they have to figure out their own lives, right? You've got to figure out when you can be at work, who can take care of your kids. Is that flight booked? Do I have to rent a car?" she said.

Planned Parenthood says it needs more staff members and money to accommodate all the patients who can make the journey. On Friday, the organization called on Illinois state government to commit funding to help abortion providers absorb the new patients.

"We are in a new frontier on this. We are going to be learning as we're going," Leahy said.


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