October 2, 2019; Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood has had a rough year. Twelve states have passed abortion bans, though none are currently in effect thanks to lawsuits. The nonprofit’s new president was abruptly asked to leave. But they did have a small victory with their latest opening: they managed to construct a new clinic in secret, hiding the purpose of the building until just before it opened.
Why would they do that? Well, because while the new clinic is in Illinois, which just established abortion access as a fundamental right, it’s very close to the border with Missouri, which has some of the nation’s most restrictive laws. Planned Parenthood clinics in Missouri don’t just face protests, although those can be large and intimidating to patients. They also face uncooperative vendors; according to Katie Smith at CBS, at one clinic, “a communications company had refused to install telephone and data lines; in another, a cabinet maker never delivered an order.”
The location near the Missouri border is deliberate. There’s only one clinic still operating in Missouri’s 69,704 square miles, and the state mandates a 72-hour waiting period for abortions, which severely limits women’s access. A number of outlets cited Jessica Herbert, a physician at The Hope Clinic, which is in Illinois but only 10 miles from St. Louis. They’ve seen a 300 percent increase in patience since 2016 and fewer than half are from Illinois. Herbert said, “It’s because they can’t access basic healthcare in Missouri.”
Planned Parenthood saw a need and stepped up for prospective patients. They used a shell company to construct the facility in a former medical office to hide its purpose. At 18,000 square feet, it will be one of the largest abortion clinics in the country and is being called a “mega-clinic.”
Of course, not everyone is happy. Mary Kate Knorr, the executive director of anti-abortion group Illinois Right to Life, claimed, “The construction of this new facility was a strategic business move—certainly not a defense of women.”
Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officer said, “The new health center is a testament to the needs of the greater bi-state region and our commitment to provide, protect and expand access to health care, no matter what.”
It is disturbing that health providers must go to such lengths to care for their patients, but it’s clear that Planned Parenthood is serving a real need for the women of that region. Hats off.—Erin Rubin