With Indiana’s abortion ban, patients from both in-state and out-of-state will likely have to travel even farther to access care, providers say. Patients will now likely travel to Illinois or Ohio, where abortions have temporarily resumed as a lawsuit challenging the ban continues.
Abortion clinics in Indiana and Illinois saw an influx of patients in the days before Indiana’s ban went into effect on September 15. A Sept. 19 hearing could temporarily allow abortions to resume in the state. This is part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by abortion providers challenging the legality of the ban under the Indiana state constitution.
Indiana’s ban makes it a crime to provide abortion services and allows only limited exceptions. Abortions up to certain stages of pregnancy are permitted if the woman’s life is in danger, if the fetus is diagnosed with a life-threatening abnormality, or if the pregnancy results from rape or incest. Providers who violate the ban will have their license revoked and could face between one and six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Dr. Katie McHugh, an abortion provider who works at several Planned Parenthood clinics and one of two independent clinics in Indianapolis, said the clinics she works at have seen an increase in patients coming from Indiana and out of state.
“People are so nervous about being pregnant in Indiana right now,” McHugh told ABC News.
McHugh said the number of patients at an independent clinic where she works doubled between June and September 15, compared to the same period last year. More patients were also choosing to get surgical abortions over medical abortions, fearing they would need follow-up care after the ban took effect if they had complications with the pill regimen. abortion, McHugh said.
McHugh said she has also witnessed “radically different” patient behavior over the past two weeks. Patients were more angry, anxious and openly expressing their feelings. McHugh said it was drastically different from what she was used to seeing; she is more used to reassuring patients.
Because Indiana has a waiting period, McHugh said as of Wednesday, the clinics she works at were referring patients calling to schedule their first appointment to other clinics out of state.
Patients will now have to travel to other states, such as Illinois or Michigan, to receive abortion care, McHugh said. From Indianapolis, women would have to drive two hours to get care in Dayton, Ohio, where abortion is temporarily available pending an ongoing trial, or drive two hours to Champaign, Illinois, she said.
Two independent abortion clinics in Indianapolis will close if a lawsuit challenging the legality of Indiana’s abortion ban fails to stay its implementation. Planned Parenthood and an independent clinic called Women’s Med will remain open, to provide patients with other reproductive care services and referrals to receive care in other states, McHugh said.
Although Indiana’s ban allows some exceptions, these abortions must all take place in licensed hospitals; the ban removes the class of license from abortion clinics, prohibiting them from providing any type of abortion care. Thus, access will be limited even to patients who can legally obtain an abortion as the state reduces the number of sites where patients can receive abortion services.
Abortion care in hospitals is more expensive and takes longer. The more advanced the pregnancy, the “inherently more dangerous” the abortion procedure is, McHugh said.
While some patients might wait to receive abortion care, others might be harmed while waiting because things can change very quickly during pregnancy, McHugh said.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois said it had been preparing for years for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and additional restrictions on abortion in many states. In anticipation of the influx of patients flowing out of Indiana for care, it has worked to increase the capacity of its clinics, even announcing an expansion of its Champaign Health Center to facilitate access to double the number of patients he can currently see.
In Illinois, Planned Parenthood expects an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 additional out-of-state patients over the next year, said Kristen Schultz, head of strategy and operations for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, at ABC News.
“In recent months, we’ve seen about a doubling of Indiana patients, but we expect that to increase significantly over the next few weeks and months, probably up to a 10-fold increase,” Schultz said.
Patients in states where bans are already in place will likely have to continue to travel even further for treatment now that it’s no longer available to them in Indiana, Schultz said.
She added, “Patients were being seen in Indiana from surrounding states and now their travel will increase by several hundred miles and likely several hours to take the extra step to get to Illinois.”
When Roe was overturned, an 1846 Wisconsin state law banning abortions went into effect. Planned Parenthood of Illinois said it has seen a 10-fold increase in the number of patients coming from Wisconsin since abortions were halted in the state.
“Now nearly 30% of our abortion patients have traveled to Illinois from another state. So even in the last two months we have seen abortion patients from 28 states outside of Illinois,” Schultz said.
Historically, patients traveled to Illinois for care from places like Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri, but now they come from states farther afield, including Texas, Kentucky, Iowa, Florida Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, Schultz said.
Despite this influx of patients, Schultz said wait times at Planned Parenthood’s Illinois clinics have remained the same since Roe’s cancellation. Wait times depend on the type of abortion care a patient needs, but Schultz said many can get care within days, and in some cases have to wait longer than a week.
Restrictions on abortions have varying effects on patients, but some of the things Planned Parenthood sees include patients who fly for the first time for care, patients who need childcare, and patients who ask gas cards because gas prices have become more expensive, Schultz said.
Schultz said abortion restrictions are likely to disproportionately affect disadvantaged people.
“Not everyone has the resources and opportunities to travel for an abortion, those patients who have already faced immense barriers to care are most likely to be further harmed by restrictive abortion laws and bans. state like we see in Indiana,” Schultz said.
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