Yamelsie Rodriguez describes it as an “act of defiance”.
But more than that, the plan to open a mobile abortion clinic in the US state of Illinois is meant to address what Rodriguez – president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St Louis and southwest Missouri – reported an increasing need for abortion services. .
Illinois has seen a dramatic increase in the number of patients coming from states where abortion is practised. prohibited or strictly regulated after the United States Supreme Court reversed the constitutional right to process in June, she told Al Jazeera.
Abortion remains legal in Illinois and people have been travel long distances from Oklahoma, Tennessee and other areas to access care since the fall of Roe v Wade, she said. Already, wait times at a Planned Parenthood clinic in southern Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, have jumped from four days to more than two weeks.
“We made it clear to our patients that we weren’t going to leave them behind and we weren’t going to back down,” Rodriguez told Al Jazeera, underscoring the group’s commitment to providing patients with abortion services. “no matter where they are”.
Earlier this week, the United States marked 100 days since the nation’s top court overturned its landmark 1973 abortion ruling, triggering widespread protests and calls for action to protect reproductive rights.
The end of Roe v Wade also saw Republican-led states immediately spring into action to shorten the procedure, capping a decades-long campaign by conservatives and religious groups opposed to abortion. Several states have imposed outright bans, while others have implemented strict restrictions.
Planned Parenthood’s mobile abortion clinic – the group’s first in the United States – is part of an opposing push by rights advocates to creating networks of abortion sanctuaries and reduce barriers to accessing the procedure in a post-Roe US country.
“It’s been 100 days since the Supreme Court unfairly struck down #RoevWade, but our communities are coming together in new ways to protect access to reproductive health care,” said St Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones. wrote on Twitter on Monday, welcoming the mobile clinic plan.
Rodriguez told Al Jazeera that Planned Parenthood has secured an 11-meter (37-foot) motorhome, which will have two exam rooms, a waiting room and a lab.
The vehicle is expected to be operational before the end of the year, when it travels along the southern Illinois border offering what is called medical abortion up to 11 weeks of gestation. The process – terminating a pregnancy with medication – represents more than half of all abortions in the United States, according to reproductive rights group Guttmacher Institute.
Surgical abortions will be available at the mobile clinic early next year, Rodriguez said.
“We expect to see an increase in demand for mobile care because the goal here is to reduce the hundreds of miles people travel one way just to access abortion care in southern Illinois,” she added.
Increase in travel
Even before Roe was knocked down, approximately 9 percent of patients aborted in the United States had to travel outside of their home country to access services, the Guttmacher Institute said. But rights advocates have warned the rate has been rising steadily since the Supreme Court ruling.
The National Abortion Federation, which operates the nation’s largest abortion hotline, said it paid for 76 hotel rooms in the first month after the top court overruled Roe on June 24 – down from five reservations of this guy during the same period a year earlier.
The federation has also booked 52 bus or plane trips for patients traveling for abortion services between June 24 and July 25 this year, compared to just one over the same period in 2021. “More people are forced to travel now than ever before,” group chief executive Veronica Jones said in a statement in August reveal the statistics.
“The truth is that abortion bans are meant to make it difficult to access care, and even with financial assistance, some people will still be denied the abortion care they need. Until we restore abortion rights for all and remove the burdens that made access to abortion care difficult even before Roe was overthrown, there will always be people who do not have access to the care they want and that they need.
This was echoed by Rodriguez of Planned Parenthood, who said reproductive rights groups are in a moment “everyone on deck” to provide access to care.
“One hundred days after[the Supreme Court decision]what we see is exactly what we expected… devastating stories of people who are forced to flee their home countries, people who are outraged that a 50-year precedent has been removed,” he said. she told Al Jazeera.
“But I think the silver lining of that,” she added, “is that more and more people are coming out and standing up for reproductive rights.”