In response to efforts by Missouri officials to further restrict access to abortion care, Planned Parenthood of America is opening what is being called a “mega-clinic” where pregnant people can get the procedure.
On Wednesday, (October 2), the health care provider announced the opening of a new 18,000 square-foot clinic in Southern Illinois, located just 13 miles from Missouri's last remaining abortion clinic. Per CBS News:
Colleen McNicholas, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said the facility was built in secret to avoid protestors and delays. Other Planned Parenthood projects had run into problems once the public realized the construction was for an abortion provider. In one instance, a communications company had refused to install telephone and data lines; in another, a cabinet maker never delivered an order, McNicholas said. In Birmingham, Alabama, protesters targeted Planned Parenthood's suppliers, flooding their social media accounts with fake negative reviews.
Although the new facility is in Illinois—which has some of the nation’s most liberal abortion laws—it is also intended to be an option for Missourians who seek the procedure. As Colorlines previously reported, the state only has one abortion facility, which is located in St. Louis and is currently embroiled in a legal battle to remain open. In June, a state commission extended the amount of time the St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility had to resolve a licensing dispute with the state health department.
In addition to only having one clinic, Missouri passed legislation earlier this year that established an eight-week abortion ban. A federal court blocked the law in August, but the state still requires pregnant people who want to have an abortion to receive state-mandated counseling that includes the distribution of anti-abortion literature, reports CBS News. They must also wait at least 72 hours after counseling to have the procedure.
Planned Parenthood expects the Illinois facility to begin taking patients later this month.
In an interview with CBS News, McNicholas said, “We were really intentional and thoughtful about making sure that we were able to complete this project as expeditiously as possible because we saw the writing on the wall—patients need better access, so we wanted to get it open as quickly as we could.”