Illinois provides abortion ‘oasis’ to those seeking services

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Graphic by Ramiro Ferrando

As some of its neighboring states have enacted laws restricting abortion access and more clinics have been closing their doors, Illinois is now more than ever an abortion “oasis” in the Midwest.

Indeed, data from the Illinois Department of Public Health show that the percentage of women from out of state who seek abortions has more than doubled since 2010.


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Graphic by Ramiro Ferrando

Illinois is usually called an abortion “oasis” in the Midwest because it is one of the few states where public policies have consistently defended access to abortion services.

The increase in the percentage of out of state women getting abortions in Illinois corresponds with the efforts to limit abortions in neighboring states.

In just the past year:

  • One clinic closed in Indiana blaming harassment from anti-abortion groups.
  • Several months ago a Kentucky’s state law put its last clinic at risk of closing by a requirement to have written agreements with a hospital and an ambulance service in case of emergencies.
  • Missouri’s state law led to the closure of a clinic on September because it was unable to comply with a new requirement that said doctors must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals before performing abortions.
  • An Iowa clinic was closed in December 2017 because of a state law that forfeited Medicaid funding going to Planned Parenthood.

According to a report by the Abortion Care Network, there are now 28 percent fewer independent clinics nationwide than in 2012.

As a result of closures, women often have to travel much farther for abortions.

In addition,  some abortion clinics offer only medication abortions, which are achieved by taking a pill.

But only women with pregnancies that are less than 10 weeks pregnant can get medical abortions.  In pregnancies 10 weeks or beyond, only a surgical abortion is possible.

The Midwest has now the fewest number of abortion clinics per women, according to a study by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.

The region also accounts for five of the 27 the “abortion deserts” — cities that are farther than 150 miles from an abortion facility. These cities are La Crosse, Wisconsin, Springfield, Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The Guttmacher Institute, a “pro-choice” research-based nonprofit, has just updated a report that analyzes the abortion policy landscape and classifies states into five categories ranging from “very supportive” to “very hostile”.

This is an interactive dashboard. Click on each state to display the corresponding data.

Illinois is labeled a “middle-ground” state as is Iowa. Wisconsin and Kentucky are labeled “hostile” and Missouri and Indiana are labeled “very hostile”.

A study from 2017 identified a series of direct and indirect issues arising from restrictive policies.

They include organizing and paying for travel, longer waiting periods and lack of state funding.

HB40: Illinois’ pro-choice move

House Bill 40 was a state law enacted in Illinois at the start of 2018 and provides expansion of abortion funding .

Now, women enrolled in Medicaid and state employees can get abortions fully paid by the state.

Studies estimate that about one-fourth of women who would have had Medicaid-covered abortions instead give birth because funding is unavailable.

Data obtained from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (IDHFS) through a Freedom of Information Act request showed that by October 2018, 2,758 abortions were reimbursed by the state to Medicaid enrolled women.

That is more than 17 times the number of 2017 and more than the total of the last eight years.

Graphic by Ramiro Ferrando

Brittany Mostiller, director of Chicago Abortion Funds (CAF), a charity that helps women to cover part of the costs of their abortions said the bill meant that Illinois’ resident women enrolled in Medicaid do not seek the funds from her organization.

Mostiller, who supported the house bill, said her group has seen the percentage of requests for funding from out-of-state women increased from about 15 percent of the total number of requests  in 2017 to about 50 percent in 2018 as of November.

According to Mostiller, this is a combination of a decrease in requests from resident women and an increase from out-of-state women. She said most of the requests come now from women from Missouri and Indiana.

The group’s funding range for an abortion is $150 to $500 depending on weeks of gestation and the woman’s travel costs. After the house bill, the group is now also funding women who have private insurance that does not cover abortions.

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