CHAMPAIGN – In response to bans in neighboring states, the Planned Parenthood clinic located in Champaign is now providing in-patient, surgical abortions.
Clinic staff expect to see more anti-abortion rights protesters with the expanded service.
“Here in Champaign, the protester activity has always been pretty mild,” says Champaign Planned Parenthood manager Jennifer Fetters. “However, now that it is public knowledge that we provide in-clinic services, we are anticipating there’s going to be an increase.”
To prepare, the clinic has requested volunteer help. Volunteers in pink shirts now welcome patients and walk them to the door of the clinic.
“It is our hope to help make the patients feel more comfortable as they’re coming in,” Fetters says. “It’s a sign of support — that somebody is there to support them and make sure that they get in comfortably and safely.”
Fetters says that when people have occasionally protested against abortion rights in Champaign, they obeyed the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) – sticking to the sidewalks off Planned Parenthood property.
She says the clinic building has had layers of protection and security for some time, including a security team in contact with law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Champaign now third downstate Planned Parenthood to offer surgical abortions
Of the 17 Planned Parenthood locations in Illinois, seven now offer surgical abortions. Champaign is one of three located south of Chicago.
Previously, Champaign only offered prescribed abortion pills – for when an individual’s most recent menstrual period was within the last 11 weeks.
Fetters says that patients have long traveled to Planned Parenthood clinics in Illinois from other states. However, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, that demand has grown.
“The surge we anticipated is here,” Fetters says.
Since June the share of abortion patients at the Champaign clinic who come from Indiana has increased from 8 to 11 percent. That number is expected to increase further, now that Indiana’s new law banning most abortions has gone into effect.
Planned Parenthood has renovated unused space in the Champaign facility to make room for the surgical abortion services.
Fetters says she feels a mix of frustration at the hurdles her out-of-state patients experience and pride that she can see them at the clinic.
She says one of her recent patients had traveled all the way from the East Coast and insisted on speaking with Fetters after the procedure.
“As hard of a time as this was for them, they were so appreciative that we were here, and they couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” Fetters says. “And, you know, that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter @amihatt.