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Jennifer Welch, President of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, speaks during an abortion rights rally in Federal Plaza, Chicago, Dec. 1, 2021

Jennifer Welch, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of lllinois, says it’s “devastating that patients have been forced to travel from so many different states to come here for such important care.”

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Illinois Planned Parenthood clinics see uptick in Southerners seeking abortions since Dobbs

Nearly a quarter of Planned Parenthood patients coming from 41 states over the last two years, up from 3% to 5% of patients prior to the 2022 Dobbs decision.

Planned Parenthood clinics in Illinois are treating a record number of patients as the anniversary approaches for the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

More patients are also traveling greater distances to get abortions in Illinois, Planned Parenthood of Illinois reported Monday.

Following the ruling in June 2022 in the Dobbs v. Jackson case that allowed states to ban or restrict abortion access, the organization has seen a 47% increase in abortion care provided at its clinics.

“We know banning or restricting abortion does not stop the need for abortion care,” said Jennifer Welch, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Nearly a quarter of patients traveled from 41 different states over the last two years, according to a news release from Planned Parenthood. The majority of out-of-state patients came from Wisconsin and Indiana.

Prior to the Dobbs decision, only about 3% to 5% of patients were from out of state, according to the release.

Illinois has long been a regional access point for abortion care in the Midwest. But since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the state has taken several steps to be a haven for patients nationwide, including passing a bill this year barring Illinois authorities from assisting out-of-state criminal investigations of people who travel into the state for reproductive health care.

“I’m really proud that Planned Parenthood is able to be here for so many people. But it’s also devastating that patients have been forced to travel from so many different states to come here for such important care,” Welch said.

The largest increase from other states compared to before the Dobbs decision was from Tennessee and Kentucky. Many of those patients sought treatment at the Planned Parenthood health center in downstate Carbondale, which opened in December 2023. The southern Illinois clinic was built in part to meet the growing needs of out-of-state patients, Welch said.

“The flood of health care refugees coming to the Carbondale health center shows the incredible need for essential sexual and reproductive care such as abortion and gender-affirming care,” Welch said.

Since the Carbondale clinic opened about six months ago, 75% of patients came from another state and 88% were from states that restrict abortion access and/or gender-affirming care. Gender-affirming care is defined as services to help transgender or non-binary patients realize their gender identity and includes medical and mental health care.

For abortions alone, 90% of Carbondale’s patients came from 16 states, according to Planned Parenthood. The top seven states were Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Indiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Missouri.

At all Planned Parenthood clinics in the state, 36% of patients came from 18 states for family planning services, which includes birth control and gender-affirming care.

Since the Supreme Court ruling two years ago, Planned Parenthood has issued more than $3.6 million in financial assistance and travel support.

Prior to the decision, the organization gave about $250 in support per person. Now, the average amount is nearly $500, according to Planned Parenthood.

“It’s a challenge for us as one single nonprofit trying to continue providing that level of support for patients. We’re just one nonprofit, and it’s costing us millions and millions,” Welch said.

“I do worry about how long we, the state of Illinois and all of the providers will have to shoulder this burden for so many states.”

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