By: Jordan Chan
Planned Parenthood recently announced plans to open its first mobile abortion clinic in the state of Illinois. Although they have not decided on the exact location of the recreational vehicle (RV) nor the exact routes it will take, Planned Parenthood indicated that it will operate along the southern border of the state. This 37-foot-long RV will include a waiting room, several exam rooms, and a lab. In the mobile clinic, employees will administer medication abortions. The organization claims it will be fully operational by the end of the year. Later, Planned Parenthood hopes to improve the initiative by implementing an option for undergoing abortion procedures — specifically surgical first-trimester abortions — in the mobile clinic as well; this addition would come in early 2023.
Planned Parenthood’s announcement came nearly four months after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark case Roe v. Wade, denying the federal right to abortion across the US. Bans on abortions in states including Idaho, South Dakota, Texas, and more have augmented the number of people traveling over state lines to access legal abortions. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, Planned Parenthood reported that patients increased by 340 percent at its Fairview Heights clinic. This is due to a rise in out-of-state patients, who were likely escaping the abortion ban in Texas, seeking medical care. One of Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officers, Colleen McNicholas, noted, “we [used to be] able to get folks in for abortion care in about two to three days. Now it’s about two to three weeks.”
Planned Parenthood hopes its new RV clinic will help existing healthcare centers overwhelmed by out-of-state patients. They are also excited to add a fresh solution to restrictions on reproductive care in the US. McNicholas anticipates exam rooms to be “fully functional…to provide [a] full spectrum of services,” and she says the design of the mobile clinic “truly mimics the experience one might have at one of [the organization’s] smaller health centers.”
The mobile aspect ensures that patients do not have to travel for hours to access a safe abortion, which lessens the disproportionate impact of the overturning of Roe on certain demographic groups. In May, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out that wealthy women have more freedom to travel to different states for abortions, but “women of color, those with lower-incomes, and victims of abuse will suffer the most.” Mobile clinics will benefit patients who cannot take time off from work, as well as patients who cannot afford child or elder care in their absence, immensely.
Although there are no immediate plans to implement more mobile units in other locations, experts suspect that Planned Parenthood may consider expanding the number of mobile units in the future. Until then, Planned Parenthood has partnered with other organizations providing mobile healthcare, providing support in ways they can.
(Sources: NY Times, NPR, Washington Post, USA Today)
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