By CLAIRE SAVAGE
Associated Press/Report for America
CHICAGO (AP) — Planned Parenthood of Illinois is combining forces with its Wisconsin counterpart to help patients travel to get abortions following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, leaders at the reproductive health centers announced Thursday.
Abortion remains legal in Illinois, but doctors in Wisconsin halted the procedure while courts determine whether the state’s 1849 law banning most abortions stands.
Illinois centers have seen a tenfold increase in patients since the U.S. Supreme Court stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion on June 24, Planned Parenthood of Illinois president and CEO Jennifer Welch said.
“Illinois is now an oasis for care as millions of patients are stranded in a vast abortion desert,” Welch said.
A big change for Planned Parenthood is an enhanced patient navigation team that will organize transit to Illinois for abortions.
“Transportation is the number one need that we see at this point,” said Tanya Atkinson, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin president and CEO. “Whether people need transportation support for a drive, or for a bus ticket or a train ticket, whatever it is really, we work to make that available to them.”
In 2020, Planned Parenthood opened a new clinic in Waukegan, Illinois, just south of the Wisconsin border.
“We expected that Wisconsin would cease access to abortion care as soon as Roe fell,” Welch said.
The organizations in Illinois and Wisconsin have always worked together, but the new partnership is unique in its scale and intensity, Welch said. Wisconsin medical professionals also are getting licensed in Illinois in record numbers so they can provide care for the rising tide of patients traveling to the southern neighbor.
“Providers didn’t have to get cross-licensed in such high numbers before,” she said.
Dr. Allison Linton is a Wisconsin provider who became licensed in Illinois and will commute to deliver abortion care to patients.
“It’s terrifying for them to figure out how to access the health care that they need,” she said.
Illinois Right to Life condemned the Planned Parenthood partnership, calling for more “life-affirming options to women facing unplanned pregnancies.”
“It’s no surprise that Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Illinois are partnering to bring more women to Illinois so the abortion giant can profit from the deaths of their children,” the organization said in a statement.
Claire Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.