Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa are preparing to help patients who may travel from states where abortion is now illegal.
Following Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, abortions are no longer legal in several Midwestern states. North Dakota and South Dakota have trigger laws which ban abortion within the next month. Wisconsin immediately halted abortions, with the court decision reinstating an 1849 law outlawing abortion in most cases.
Politico leaked the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade in early May.
“We have been working on this decision, how it would impact our surrounding states, for the last several months,” said Dr. Sarah Traxler, Planned Parenthood North Central States chief medical officer, during a news conference Friday.
Abortion remains legal in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois. In those states, Planned Parenthood clinics are preparing to take on the patient load from states with abortion bans.
“We’ve done a lot of things in order to expand access in Minnesota and Iowa,” Traxler said. “We imagine these patients, those who can travel, will travel out of the state in order to access abortion.”
Planned Parenthood’s path forward
Expanding access means hiring more health care workers for clinics in states where abortion is legal, in addition to expanding telemedicine options, Traxler said.
Planned Parenthood also hired a patient navigator to specifically help people who need to travel to another for health care. In the past several months, Planned Parenthood has hired more navigators throughout the country to help patients find their way through the health care system and the logistics of traveling and paying for health services.
Traxler said much of the organization’s expansion services are focused on Minnesota clinics, which are expected to see an influx of patients coming from South Dakota and Wisconsin. In Minnesota, the organization is working to hire more health care workers and create more appointment options to meet new demands. So far, no new Planned Parenthood clinics are offering abortion procedures.
That does not mean Planned Parenthood is turning away from Iowa. Sarah Stoesz, Planned Parenthood North Central States president and CEO, emphasized that abortion remains safe and legal in Iowa.
“Our doors stay open, and we intend to keep them that way,” she said. “Nothing has changed in Iowa.”
A week before the U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Iowa Supreme Court found there is no fundamental right to an abortion under the state constitution. The decision leaves Iowa open to legislative action to restrict or ban the procedure. Gov. Kim Reynolds has made no public comments about holding a special legislative session to pass new abortion legislation. The next regular legislative session begins in January 2023.
However, the court decision did impose a barrier to abortion access in Iowa: a 24-hour waiting period before the procedure. While Iowa’s attorney general said the injunction which stopped enforcement of this law remains in effect, Planned Parenthood enacted the waiting period at its Iowa clinics.
Marginalized patients impacted most by abortion bans
While abortion providers are trying to help accommodate traveling patients, traveling itself is a burden. Some employers, such as Wells Fargo and Bridgestone in Iowa, are incorporating travel costs into their health care coverage plans, The Des Moines Register reported. People seeking an abortion without these benefits through health insurance or travel coverage would take on transportation and lodging costs, on top of the cost of the procedure itself.
Groups like the National Abortion Federation work to help people seeking abortions pay for travel expenses, and have seen an influx of support following the Supreme Court ruling. Even with some groups providing aid, Stoesz said, not everyone has the resources to cross state lines for health care access. LGBTQ+ and low-income and non-white communities will be disproportionately affected by states’ abortion bans, she said.
“It is fair to say that an abortion ban is not a ban for all people,” Stoesz said. “It is a ban for certain people who are unable to travel. And for many people, that’s not just a question of not having the funds to travel, there are many other barriers that keep them from being able to travel.”
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