First post-Roe abortion ban goes into effect in Indiana

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Indiana’s near-total ban on abortion went into effect Thursday. Planned Parenthood of Illinois, in tandem, announced its Champaign Center will offer procedural abortions for the first time in anticipation of an increase in demand.

It doubles access in central Illinois to the in-clinic option, the organization said Thursday morning.

Indiana was previously considered an ‘access haven’ for people living in western Kentucky and Tennessee too. Overnight, Illinois became the nearest option for all three places.

Planned Parenthood facilities in Springfield and Fairview Heights, Illinois already provided the procedural option, as well as the non-affiliated Hope Clinic in Granite City. Champaign — much closer to central Indiana — became the fourth downstate clinic to offer it last week.

Memphis, TN-based Choices Clinic was expected to open a new location in Carbondale sometime in August. According to its website, the opening is now expected in mid-September.

“Yesterday was the last day that we were funding abortions in Indiana. And I don’t think I was quite prepared for how emotional that would be,” Jessica Marchbank, State Programs Manager of the Bloomington, Indiana-based All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center, said.

“There were a lot of people who were getting squeezed in the very last day, which was yesterday,” she said in a Thursday morning interview.

Marchbank, under the scope of the resource center, heads up the Hoosier Abortion Fund, a donation-based program that helps cover the cost of an abortion for women either living in Indiana or traveling to the state for the services.

She shared a story of a client Wednesday, one of the last to get the abortion procedure in Indiana.

“Her last pregnancy was complicated and dangerous, and so she knew that would be her last child. And when she got pregnant again…she was terrified and knew that another pregnancy might jeopardize her life, and leave her three children without a mother,” Marchbank said.

The Indiana ban does allow abortions to save a mother’s life or prevent serious health risks. It does not clarify or define at what point health care professionals consider a woman’s life in danger or what constitutes a “serious health risk.”

“There is no clear line,” Marchbank said. “At what point is the pregnant person’s life in jeopardy enough?

Women with similar stories will likely make — and already have — made the drive to Illinois.

“They cannot be criminalized for traveling out of state for legal abortion care,” Marchbank said.

Dr. Amy Whitaker, Chief Medical Officer at Planned Parenthood Illinois, said the organization has been preparing for this day for years. Offering in-clinic abortions in Champaign is the latest move to be officially implemented, just as the option disappeared in our neighboring state.

“When you go from about 5% of the patient population having to have traveled from out of state to 30%, it really is emotionally difficult,” she said.

“I’m really pleased,” Marchbank reacted. Although she’s been critical of the higher cost of services at Planned Parenthood facilities versus independent centers like Hope Clinic, she added, “Champaign is going to be a key access point for a lot of Hoosiers.”

The Champaign clinic has been providing abortion-inducing pills to patients within 10 weeks of pregnancy, alongside Planned Parenthood’s six other downstate locations. Previously, Springfield was the only other to offer the procedure.

“We had been able to meet the demand in central Illinois with our Springfield health center providing in-clinic abortion services,” Dr. Whitaker said.

In the first eight days with increased services, Whitaker said wait times in Champaign have largely been unaffected.

Since the leaked U.S. Supreme Court decision ahead of the overturning of Roe V. Wade in June, the All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center has seen a significant influx of calls and requests, according to Marchbank.

“In August, we funded 370 people at over $97,000,” she said. “Staggering numbers that we’ve never seen that high before.”

Then it halted overnight.

“I’m always kind of bracing myself because it wouldn’t be unusual to have like 30 new messages from not being online for 12 hours,” Marchbank said.

“And this morning, I opened it up and there were no messages at all. And I wasn’t prepared for how hard that would hit me.”

The non-profit will continue to cover Indiana residents making the trek to Illinois, she stressed.

The Champaign Planned Parenthood center has seen patients from 11 states, not including Illinois, since the federal abortion protection was overturned, according to a press release Thursday.

The cost is typically higher for people from out-of-state, compared to those living in Illinois where the law requires most private insurers to cover abortion.

Financial aid is available at Planned Parenthood, Whitaker said when asked. The organization partners with in-state funds similar to the Hoosier fund, including the Chicago Abortion Fund, according to the chief medical officer.

An abortion navigator is available to help make those connections when people call to book appointments in Champaign, she said, adding that Planned Parenthood is working to hire more in Illinois.

As for finding those resources, Whitaker said to inquire about the assistance when you initially call the health center and you will be connected to the navigator.