For months, abortion providers in the Metro East have described a surge in patients since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
A national report from the Society for Family Planning has documented that increase. It notes that Illinois clinics performed nearly 30% more abortions in August than in April, even as the total number of procedures fell across the United States.
The group, which supports abortion rights, compiled the data from a database of hospitals, clinics and other providers from all 50 states.
The group began compiling the list in early 2022. It found that Illinois providers performed nearly 7,000 abortions in August, up from 5,400 in May and April and nearly 6,000 in June.
The jump in abortions performed by Illinois clinics comes as states in the south-central region of the United States saw a 96% decrease in the number of abortions between April and August. Many patients are coming to Illinois, where abortion remains legal, from Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and other states where lawmakers swiftly banned the procedure.
Providers in the Metro East and other parts of Illinois are trying to absorb the increase in patients, said Mallory Schwarz, director of the abortion-rights group Pro-Choice Missouri.
“Where we are right now is a place of harm mitigation,” she said. “There just is not the capacity in any of these places to meet the needs of people who need abortions in the dozen-plus states like Missouri that have gone dark.”
Nationwide, the number of abortions decreased 6%, the report found.
“Overall, the monthly number of abortions declined from April to August 2022, signaling that many thousands of pregnant people living in states where abortion is banned and restricted were unable to travel for abortion care,” the report’s authors wrote.
Illinois, North Carolina, Kansas and Colorado saw the biggest jumps in abortions
Anti-abortion advocates were not surprised by the large increase in Illinois.
“The overturning of Roe v. Wade is something for pro-lifers everywhere to celebrate,” said Amy Gehrke, executive director of the anti-abortion rights organization Illinois Right to Life. “Nobody thought Roe v. Wade would be overturned in our lifetimes. … That being said, Illinois is a haven of abortion extremism.”
Illinois is among the only states in the Midwest that has protected the right to an abortion in its state law. It also allows abortions later in a pregnancy, up to around 24 weeks.
Gehrke said anti-abortion advocates are raising awareness about the state’s 2019 Reproductive Health Act, which, among many other abortion protections, eliminated the requirement that the Illinois Health Department license clinics that perform abortions.
People who support abortion rights were also not surprised by the increase in Illinois procedures. They said the report shows huge decreases in access.
The bans disproportionately affects those who can’t travel to Illinois, Colorado or other states for abortions, said Michele Landeau, a board member of the Missouri Abortion Fund, which provides financial assistance to people seeking abortions.
“They can absorb patients,” Landeau said of providers in Illinois, “but can those people overcome all these inhumane barriers in order to get that care?”
Landeau said it’s difficult to know how many people are having abortions, since many are likely acquiring abortion medications online through the website Aid Access and other internationally based nonprofits.
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