Planned Parenthood officials announced Monday the clinic would soon hit the road in a 37-foot RV, bringing abortion services near bordering states that have since banned the procedure.
Yamelsie Rodriguez, president of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told NPR the goal of the mobile abortion clinic would reduce travel times and distances to meet patients at the state border lines.
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, will first drive the clinic to the Illinois border, which has become a so-called haven for abortions from other parts of the Midwest and the South, such as Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
“We are all trying to work together to meet the exponential increase in the number of patients that are traveling from banned states to what we’re calling ‘haven states’ for abortion care,” Yamelsie Rodriguez, President of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told NPR. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment.”
Before the nation’s highest court kicked off the summer season by reversing the landmark decision that has resulted in 63 million abortions since 1973, Rodriguez told The Associated Press that wait times for those seeking to terminate their pregnancy have gone from an average of four days to two-and-a-half weeks.
According to The Associated Press, Planned Parenthood in Fairview Heights, on the Illinois side of the St. Louis region, said the clinic had seen a higher than expected rate of abortion patients that increased by 30% since June. More than 340% increased among patients in Missouri and Illinois.
Pro-life advocates grieved over Monday’s announcement, with the National Right to Life Committee calling the abortion-on-wheels clinic “another grotesque demeaning of human life.”
“Chemical abortions can lead to life-threatening complications,” Laura Echevarria, spokeswoman for the committee, told The Associated Press in a statement. “Will women recognize those complications early enough to seek treatment?”
Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-MO), an ardent anti-abortion advocate, told The Kansas City Star that Planned Parenthood’s move “is a desperate move from those that profit from women in crisis.”
“I want every woman in Missouri who is considering abortion to know that Missouri stands ready to help her and her baby,” Coleman said.
Missouri joined 12 other Republican-controlled states to immediately ban abortions following the Supreme Court’s decision.
The Kansas City Star reported Sam Lee, a Jefferson City-based anti-abortion lobbyist, criticized Planned Parenthood in a statement, claiming that medically induced abortions put women at risk of adverse reactions.
“It is reckless for Planned Parenthood to hand out abortion pills like candy just across the border, since many patients — including minor girls — will end up in hospital emergency rooms in Missouri,” Lee said.
Officials told The Associated Press the RV clinics — which will include two exam rooms, a lab, and a waiting room to provide medication abortions up to 11 weeks of gestation — would arrive in the St. Louis region by October and should be operational by the end of this year.
Following the same protocol at permanent facilities, NPR reports officials said patients first take mifepristone to induce pregnancy termination. Patients then take misoprostol to prevent and treat stomach and duodenal ulcers and postpartum bleeding due to poor contraction of the uterus.
The abortion provider said it would start providing surgical abortions inside the RV after a few months.