Planned Parenthood of Illinois abortion clinic in Waukegan draws patients, providers from Wisconsin in post-Roe world

A room in a Planned Parenthood of Illinois clinic in Waukegan, where abortion providers from Wisconsin are helping provide access to more patients from their home state now that abortion access is largely banned there

Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

On a recent afternoon, Ezra Figueroa is giving a tour of Planned Parenthood of Illinois’ clinic in Waukegan, about 20 minutes from the Wisconsin border.

The space is big and, except for the Michael Jackson tunes and other hits playing in the background, quiet. There are hardwood floors throughout, and exam rooms typical of a doctor’s office.

There’s also a shiny, silver vault in the break room that Figueroa, the assistant health center manager, is unsuccessfully trying to open.

“Can’t get inside of it,” Figueroa said. “I really wish we could. But it’s really cool to just have here.”

The vault is a reminder of what this health center used to be — a bank on a busy retail strip. Two years ago, Planned Parenthood of Illinois opened the clinic in the former bank with Wisconsin in mind. Were Roe v. Wade overturned — as it was in June — a Wisconsin law would largely strip away access to abortion in that state. And that’s what happened immediately.

As a result, Planned Parenthood organizations in Illinois and Wisconsin recently announced a deal under which more than a dozen employees from Wisconsin — including doctors, nurses and medical assistants — now commute to Waukegan. Some come a few times a week, some a few times a month.

“It really required this perfect pairing of supply and demand,” said Kristen Schultz, Planned Parenthood of Illinois’ chief strategy and operations officer. “They had capacity without local demand, and we had the opposite.”

The idea is to preserve access to abortion for Wisconsin residents while helping out the Waukegan clinic as Illinois becomes a greater oasis for abortion care. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, dozens of abortion clinics have closed across the nation as 11 states across the South and Midwest imposed bans, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit advocacy organization that supports abortion rights and tracks the issue.

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The influx of patients into Illinois has had another impact. For years, abortion providers have been traveling to other states, including Mississippi and Oklahoma, where their help has been needed more. They would fly in once or twice a month to perform abortions, then return home.

Dr. Laura Laursen, a Chicago obstetrician and gynecologist, was one of them.

“Now, the script is totally flipped,” said Laursen, who is a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. “This is where you are needed more than anywhere else.”

Making the long commute

Outside the Waukegan clinic along busy Lewis Avenue, two people demonstrated silently as cars zoomed past. They were shielded by bushes that essentially blocked them from view from the Planned …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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