Demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.Share on Pinterest
Demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., early on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images
  • A new mobile abortion clinic may help give people access to reproductive care.
  • The clinic will be located in Illinois not far from Missouri where abortion is almost completely banned.
  • After Roe v. Wade was overturned health providers have worked on bringing better access to people in states that have virtually banned the procedure.

Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri announced plans to open its first mobile abortion clinic by the end of 2022.

This mobile clinic will operate along the border regions of southern Illinois, where abortion is currently legal and protected by the state’s constitution.

The goal is to bring abortion services closer to people in the region, including those who travel to Illinois from the neighboring state of Missouri, where abortion is nearly completely banned.

“Abortion restrictions and bans create a patchwork of access where a patient’s zip code now determines their ability to make fully informed, autonomous reproductive health decisions,” Dr. Amy Addante told Healthline. Addante is an obstetrician-gynecologist in Illinois and a fellow with the advocacy group Physicians for Reproductive Health.

“Patients who are experiencing undesired or medically complicated pregnancies are faced with the choice to either continue that pregnancy against their will or navigate numerous barriers to traveling out of state,” she continued.

Planned Parenthood’s mobile clinic will operate out of an RV, fully equipped with a waiting area, laboratory, and two exam rooms.

During its initial months of operation, it will offer medication abortion up to 11 weeks of pregnancy. Following a two-drug protocol, patients will take mifepristone on-site and receive counseling to take misoprostol later on.

These two drugs can stop a pregnancy and then induce an abortion.

Eventually, Planned Parenthood also plans to offer procedural abortion from its mobile clinic.

Procedural abortion is sometimes known as surgical abortion, which can be legally performed in Illinois until a pregnancy reaches viability.

Viability is determined as when a fetus can survive outside the womb, which usually happens around 23–24 weeks of pregnancy. After a pregnancy reaches viability, abortion is only legal in Illinois if the pregnant person’s health or life is in danger.

This will be the first mobile abortion clinic operated by Planned Parenthood but not the first in the country.

The nonprofit organization Just the Pill is already operating a mobile abortion clinic through its “Just Delivered” program in Colorado.

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in July 2022, Missouri and multiple other states implemented near-total abortion bans.

In most cases, residents of those states must now travel to other states to access legal abortion services. This has increased demand for abortion in states where it remains legal.

Since the fall of Roe, Planned Parenthood has reported a 30 percent increase in the number of abortion patients at its Fairview Heights Health Center, which is located in Illinois about 20 miles from the border with Missouri.

The Fairview Heights center is seeing patients from not only the bi-state region of Illinois-Missouri but also farther afield. Planned Parenthood reports that the number of patients traveling from outside the region has increased by more than 340%.

Missouri’s neighboring states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma have also implemented near-total abortion bans.

Lawmakers in Indiana have passed an abortion ban as well, but that law has been temporarily blocked due to a court challenge.

Traveling for abortion services poses significant barriers to many patients. In some cases, those barriers lead to delays in abortion care or prevent people from accessing legal abortion services altogether.

“People now have to research where they can get an abortion—either across state lines if they are lucky enough to live next to a state where it remains legal and accessible or in a more distant state,” Dr. Jennifer Kerns, told Healthline. Kerns is an obstetrician-gynecologist who treats patients in California and Kansas and an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.

“This results in a delay in care, which translates into abortions being done later in pregnancy. While all abortions are safe, even those done later in the pregnancy, abortions are safest when done as early as possible,” Kerns said.

The financial and social costs of travel can also prove burdensome, especially if patients face long travel times that require overnight stays.

“When patients are forced to travel for care, the number of obstacles—including things like cost of transportation, arranging childcare, and taking time off work—start to pile up,” Addante said.

“[The burden] disproportionately impacts already marginalized groups of individuals, particularly patients who are low income, people of color, and young people,” she said.

Mobile clinics may help limit some of the barriers by reducing travel distances for patients. Such clinics may also ease the load on brick-and-mortar centers, increasing overall capacity for abortion services in states where it’s legal.