- After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Illinois has become an abortion oasis.
- A Chicago gynecologist told Insider she was overwhelmed by the number of out-of-state patients she saw.
- “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m worried it might get worse,” said Dr. Amy Addante.
Reproductive health care providers in states where abortion has remained protected are seeing new trends when it comes to providing this care: Patients travel hours or days for a procedure that in some cases takes only minutes.
Dr. Amy Addante, a Chicago-based gynecologist, wanted to take a look at where her patients were coming from on Friday. As she looked through the list, she was struck by the distance people have traveled for a service she provides on a regular basis. People came from Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana to have abortions.
“Overwhelmingly, the answer was the same. It was ‘thank you for taking care of me,'” Addante told Insider. “They had overcome all these barriers and traveled so far from their homes, and yet they were the ones who thanked me. It was very profound,” he said.
Traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to have an abortion has become the new normal since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Those living in the 13 states with “trigger laws” – where abortion was immediately banned or severely restricted – have few options.
Healthcare workers are at a crossroads
About one in four Americans will have an abortion before age 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization on reproductive health.
Addante agreed with many others that abortion bans will make it increasingly difficult for the most vulnerable in society to access potentially life-saving health care. He said that while he welcomes those from out of state, a consequence of the SCOTUS decision will be longer waiting times for appointments and an increase in pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality.
The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate compared to 10 other developed nations. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the maternal mortality rate was nearly 24 deaths per 100,000 live births.
“We know that by denying people reproductive health care, we increase the risk of pregnancy complications,” Addante told Insider.
Another fallout from the sentence is the impact on health workers.
“It’s really exhausting mentally and emotionally, not being able to do the job you were trained to do because a politician thinks he knows better than you and your patient,” he said.
After the Supreme Court decision on June 24, Illinois has become an abortion oasis. In 2020, state doctors performed 9,686 out-of-state abortions, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Planned Parenthood Illinois told Insider that it expects that number to double or triple in light of the ruling.
Addante said that since June 24, the phones in these clinics have been ringing relentlessly with healthcare professionals not only for booking appointments, but also for troubleshooting travel costs and childcare.
“How do we help someone who lives three states away? How do we help someone who doesn’t have gas money or who doesn’t have childcare for the children they already have?” Addante said: “I am angry that a person’s zip code now determines the type of health care he receives.”
“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg”
Addante knows what it’s like to work in a state where access to abortion is limited. Before working in Chicago, she spent six years in Missouri, a state that already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States. He remembers having to turn patients away.
“It’s one of the worst feelings in the world as a doctor to have to tell someone you can’t take care of them. Not because you don’t have the skills, but because you’re legally not allowed.” she said.
Addante says the sentence galvanized her. She said she now feels even more committed to providing abortion care.
“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m worried it might get worse … And as a mom me and as a person – this is what I do for a living, it’s just, it’s heartbreaking,” she said.