Family Planning Resource Center opens for out-of-state patients near Missouri border

SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – Just 15 miles from the Missouri border in Fairview Heights, Planned Parenthood of St Louis and Southwest Missouri has opened a regional logistics center aimed at connecting out-of-state patients with resources to facilitate looking for their abortion.

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

PPSL has previously offered these services, but now has a dedicated center to resolve practical issues. Director of Patient Access Kawana Shannon said she still gets calls like this.

“I’ve seen so many patients forced into unnecessarily impossible situations to access abortion,” she said.

“My phone is ringing at all hours of the day and night, patients who face unexpected obstacles like broken down cars that don’t get them to our health centers, patients who need an extra night of clinical support,” continued Shannon. “Phone calls are more frequent, more urgent, patients want to come in as soon as possible.”

The concept for the center began to develop in 2019. PPSL President and CEO Yasmelsie Rodriguez said the center was not specifically inspired by the growing possibility of a landmark abortion case. Roe vs. Wade getting knocked.

However, she said “writing on the wall,” such as Texas banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and Missouri closing all but one Planned Parenthood, led them to make sure out-of-state patients feel welcome. Since 2019, Rodriguez said their patients have consistently come from at least seven other states in the region. More than half of their patients, 53%, come from outside their service area.

In the three weeks since the program launched, the center provided 138 rides and housed dozens of patients, according to PPSL.

“Our goal was not to reinvent the wheel,” Rodriguez said of the center, “but really to be a connector and kind of a one-stop shop where we can care for patients holistically, not just through the appointments, but recognizing that in order to get to their appointments, patients still face many obstacles.

PPSL has partnered with Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois, which is in northern St Louis, just across the border. Together, they invested $10 million in the development of the logistics center. The center also accepts donations on its website.

“We saw an explosion not only in the number of patients who needed funding and logistical support, but also travel assistance,” said Dr. Erin King of the Hope Clinic for Women.

The regional center follows other steps Illinois has taken to be an abortion oasis. In December, Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation repealing the Parental Notification Act, which was one of the last restrictions on abortions in Illinois. In June 2019, Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act, consolidating abortion rights in Illinois.

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

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