New Metro East call center will help people across the country get abortions
FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — Two abortion providers in the Metro East launched a new logistics center on Friday designed to help broaden access both locally and nationally.
The call center in Planned Parenthood’s Fairview Heights clinic will help with travel logistics and connect patients with resources, like money, and other support organizations in all 50 states, said Yamelsie Rodríguez, president of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.
“[It’s] a case management center that helps solve the growing layers of logistical barriers patients face when seeking an abortion,” she said. “This is a new navigation tool in response to a growing demand.”
It will be operated by Planned Parenthood and the Hope Clinic for Women, which is located in Granite City.
Rodríguez said the idea for the center came two years ago when Planned Parenthood was preparing for additional restrictions on abortions in the St. Louis region. It was the same year Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act, which protects abortion rights in state law.
“We made a collective effort to come up with wraparound services to ease the burden of patients,” she said. “We had already been seeing a lot of out-of-state patients coming to us from Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and others.”
That demand from outside the region only intensified after a Texas law essentially banning the procedure went into effect last year, said Dr. Erin King, executive director of the Hope Clinic.
“We saw an explosion in the amount of patients that needed not just funding and logistical support, but travel support,” she said. “We've had several years of the states around us adding more and more restrictions, but the increase has been astronomical in the last four months.”
Rodríguez noted that her clinic has seen a 53% increase in out-of-state patients since the Texas law took effect.
“This law just has had this rippling effect, causing all patients even in states where abortion is still legal and available to travel outside of their home states to find appointments faster,” she said.
And if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Rodríguez predicts the two clinics in the Metro East would see as many as 14,000 additional patients from outside the region in the first year following that decision.
Pritzker praised the new logistics center, calling it the “first of its kind” within Planned Parenthood.
“The services that it provides represent an important new frontier to secure abortion rights,” he said. “We’re incredibly proud that it’s here in Illinois. As governor, I will fight to make sure Illinois is a refuge for reproductive rights today, tomorrow, and always.”
Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the journalism grant program: Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.