CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) – Illinois abortion providers expect a patient influx beyond a current surge to begin in a month when a near-total ban on abortion goes into effect in neighboring Indiana. Access advocates say women in central and southern Indiana can expect availability in Illinois, but for the services to be up to a couple of hundred miles away or twice the price.
Planned Parenthood Illinois is already seeing a surge, according to internal numbers provided by representatives Monday.
Seeing approximately 100 patients in their 17 statewide facilities was an average month. That number skyrocketed to 800 in the first month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade, making Illinois an apparent island for abortion access in a sea of states with bans or impending bans.
Planned Parenthood representatives expect the patient population to multiply again when the Indiana law goes into effect on Sept. 15.
Jessica Marchbank manages the Hoosier Abortion Fund, among other programs at the All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center in Bloomington, IN. The non-profit was set up to set aside funds to help women living in Indiana cover the cost of an abortion.
As soon as a draft of the Supreme Court’s opinion leaked in late June, she said people from outside Indiana started calling in to figure out how to access services available (for another month) to women less than 22 weeks into a pregnancy.
“Which six months ago, would rarely have happened,” Marchbank said.
“If we say we’re talking about March of 2022, we might have received 30 calls in a week. And we were able to fund maybe 10 of those calls because we were a small nonprofit.”
After leaked opinion, and even more so in the past six weeks, “we’re consistently receiving 80 to 90 inquiries a week. And we’re also funding over 70 people every single week,” she continued.
“I just want to be clear, that’s not in any way because people are suddenly having more abortions. That’s not happening. But there’s been a lot more awareness about the existence of abortion funds.”
Money from the Hoosier Abortion fund goes toward the health care itself, but it can also be used to help cover the travel needed to get to a clinic.
The closest facility for most near the Illinois border in central and southern Indiana is the Planned Parenthood in Champaign, but that clinic doesn’t offer surgical abortions. Decatur and Peoria don’t either.
Those clinics provide the abortion pill, which isn’t available to anyone beyond about 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Springfield’s Planned Parenthood clinic does offer the procedure for women up to 17 weeks and 6 days into a pregnancy.
However, Marchbank won’t typically send any patients to downstate Illinois Planned Parenthood clinics because the cost for surgical abortion is nearly $900, she said.
Planned Parenthood Illinois said, “The cost of an abortion depends on the type of abortion, the patient’s gestation, and other factors like sedation preference, etc.”
The statement provided Monday also said the organization provides “qualifying patients paying out of pocket with financial assistance and other resources to help them access care at our health centers.”
The Hoosier Abortion Fund typically sends people who would be best served in Illinois to the Hope Clinic, east of St. Louis in Granite City, IL, which is more than 150 miles (sometimes more than 200 miles) for Indiana patients. But the cost there is cut in half, according to Marchbank.
“Say we’re able to contribute $200 or $300 toward their appointment if the total appointment cost is going to be nearly $900, that’s still — even with our funding — it’s still just out of reach for so many people,” she said.
The cost of abortion services is typically higher in general for those traveling in from Indiana than people living in Illinois where the 2019 Illinois Reproductive Health Act required most private health insurance plans to cover abortion, including elective procedures.
In contrast, Marchbank said “that’s like unicorn health insurance” in Indiana.
“I think in talking about like, 500 different cases, I’ve heard of one person’s health insurance covering abortion care.”
There is an Evansville Planned Parenthood location in southern Indiana, but Marchbank said they will only provide an initial consultation appointment. Since Illinois law doesn’t require a pre-procedure appointment as, she often recommends they bypass Evansville and make one longer drive to Granite City.
Memphis, TN-based Choice clinic is expected to open a new location in Carbondale, IL sometime this month. Marchbank says she hasn’t heard anything about what services will cost there, but that she’s “really looking forward to that one opening” given the absence of clinic options in that part of the state.
The Indiana law will ban abortion from conception, with limited exceptions for rape and incest and to protect the life and health of the mother. The exceptions for rape and incest are limited to 10 weeks after conception.
“I think a lot of people assume that abortion funds, especially in states like Indiana are just suddenly going to stop operating,” Marchbank said. “And we really want to make sure people know that that’s not the case.”