SPRINGFIELD – Planned Parenthood affiliates in Illinois and Wisconsin said Thursday they have formed a partnership to expand services at an abortion clinic in Waukegan to help serve residents of Wisconsin, where abortion services are now banned.
That announcement came three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide. Once the court rendered that decision, a Wisconsin law dating back to 1849 that criminalizes abortion automatically went back into effect.
“We opened the Waukegan Health Center in 2020 in anticipation of this moment,” Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said during a virtual news conference. “We expected that Wisconsin would cease access to abortion care as soon as Roe fell, so we were prepared to give Wisconsin patients the care they needed.”
Under the arrangement, patients can still go to one of four clinics in Wisconsin to receive care before and after the procedure. But several Wisconsin clinicians, nurses and other staff travel to the Waukegan clinic to expand capacity at that health center and other clinics in Illinois through telehealth.
Tanya Atkinson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said her organization had anticipated the overturning of Roe v. Wade for years and had been working for the past several months to build partnerships with providers in other states.
“Despite the devastating impact of this criminal abortion ban, we are grateful to have health care options for our patients right next door in Illinois,” she said. “Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is working on many fronts to provide patients with information, support, financial resources and access to abortion services and to follow-up care.”
Atkinson noted that even before Roe v. Wade was overturned, Wisconsin imposed strict regulations on abortion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that supports abortion rights, even after the original Roe v. Wade decision, Wisconsin imposed a number of restrictions on the procedure.
Those included a 24-hour waiting period and state-directed counseling that included information designed to discourage a patient from having an abortion, a prohibition against the use of telemedicine to administer abortion medications; and a requirement for parental consent to perform an abortion on a minor, among others.
Illinois, by contrast, imposes virtually no legal restrictions on access to abortion services. A 2019 law known as the Reproductive Health Act declares access to abortion services a “fundamental right” under Illinois law. And last year, lawmakers repealed what was known as the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, requiring parents of minors seeking abortions to be notified before the procedure could be performed.
Because of that, many Wisconsin residents seeking abortions went to out-of-state providers, including those in Illinois. But Kristen Schultz, chief strategy and operations officer at the Illinois affiliate, said that since Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24, there has been a 10-fold increase in the number of Wisconsin residents coming to Illinois for abortion services.
Earlier in the week, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee about the increased demand for abortion services that Illinois is seeing from residents of other states where the procedure is now either banned or heavily restricted.
“We are not just an oasis of reproductive care, but an island,” she said, according to her prepared remarks. “Here’s what that looks like: It looks like disenfranchised yet determined patients coming from
every surrounding state, but also from as far away as Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida.”