Illinois has seen an influx of patients seeking abortion care from states like Wisconsin, where the practice was largely banned after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois reported seeing a 54 percent jump in the number of patients seeking abortions over the last year. And those in need of financial and travel support have more than doubled.
Kristen Schultz, the group’s chief strategy and operations officer, said out-of-state patients now make up a quarter of those seeking care. Patients from 34 states across the country have traveled to Illinois, with the majority coming from Wisconsin.
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“Last year’s Supreme Court decision that handed power to the states really restricted that access to abortion care, leaving patients desperate and confused and fearful and, frankly, putting people’s health at risk,” Schultz said.
Schultz said before Roe was overturned, Illinois typically saw about two dozen Wisconsin residents each month for abortion care. But since June 2022, the state now sees several hundred patients from Wisconsin each month.
Schultz said Planned Parenthood of Illinois has seen a “12-times increase in patients needing to travel from Wisconsin to receive care,” calling the increase “unprecedented.”
Schultz said geographical proximity is one factor, but the trend is also driven by what she described as a strong partnership between the chapters in Illinois and Wisconsin.
According to Schultz, Planned Parenthood of Illinois runs 17 health centers. In 2020, the group opened the Waukegan Health Center, with Wisconsin patients now accounting for 57 percent of their visit volume. Waukegan is just over the Illinois border and is about 17 miles from Kenosha.
Schultz said the group intentionally expanded their medical services, patient navigation and behavioral health support teams prior to Roe falling. Since then, 700 more volunteers have joined the effort.
“I wouldn’t say that we haven’t faced any strain,” Schultz said. “We’ve grown, the financial challenges are greater, the stress on patients and the barriers they face is greater, so it certainly has changed things for our providers and for our organization.”
Some anti-abortion groups have raised concerns over Illinois providing abortion services, saying Wisconsin should focus on supporting new mothers.
Gracie Skogman, the legislative director for Wisconsin Right to Life, said pregnancy resource centers are also seeing increased demand.
“It is deeply concerning to us that Illinois continues to be a safe haven for taking the lives of preborn children,” she said.
“We know the reality is that many of these women do want to choose life for their children, but they do not feel that they have the resources and support,” Skogman continued.
Skogman expressed support for a bill going through the state Legislature that would extend postpartum care under the Medical Assistance Program.
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