What Missouri's Fight Over Abortion Means For An Illinois Clinic Across The River
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Missouri's only clinic that performs abortions is fighting to stay open. That fight against the state's health department is playing out in the courts today. Last week we asked the head of Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services, Randall Williams, how the closure of this clinic might affect Missouri women's access to abortion.
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RANDALL WILLIAMS: Access is always important to us, and so as you know, Missouri is contiguous to eight states. And so there certainly are abortion facilities very close by in Illinois and Kansas.
SHAPIRO: Alison Dreith directs one of those nearby facilities. She runs the Hope Clinic in Granite, Ill., roughly 20 minutes' drive from St. Louis. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
ALISON DREITH: Thanks for having me.
SHAPIRO: How have you and your staff been preparing for the possibility that Missouri may one day be left without a clinic that provides abortions?
DREITH: Well, I think abortion providers all across the country have theoretically been planning for this day since Trump was elected to office, and those conversations have picked up more rapidly and frequently since the beginning of 2019. And now we have had to rapidly put in some of that crisis management planning into practice over these past two weeks.
SHAPIRO: Can you give us examples of some of the kinds of steps you're talking about?
DREITH: Yeah, some of the steps we have taken is hiring new staff, considering patient flow and how to allow patients to expect the same safe and compassionate care that they always have from us without having to be in the clinic longer hours. We've been utilizing volunteers to do mundane clerical work for us that we once had the opportunity to do so. We've been increasing our number of patients and staying open longer hours than what we would have normally expected.
SHAPIRO: I imagine your clinic's capacity is limited in some respect. Can you scale up to the degree that you think you might have to?
DREITH: Absolutely not right off the bat. We see about 3,000 patients a year here at Hope Clinic, and from the...
SHAPIRO: And is that all for abortions, or does that include STI treatment, birth control?
DREITH: Just abortions.
DREITH: The last report I think from the Guttmacher Institute of abortion patients in Missouri was 3,500 in 2017. That is more than double of what we currently see, and we wouldn't expect to take on all of those patients where there are a number of neighboring states that could provide services much more close to home for patients. But we are in a unique position that we're so close to downtown St. Louis and that remaining abortion provider in Missouri and that we also go to 24-weeks gestation, which a lot of our other neighboring states do not.
So we have already seen about a 30% increase of abortion patients in the past two years since Missouri passed its last ban on abortion in 2017, but we have seen an increase in those numbers already in 2019 compared to the same time last year. And we expect that to continue to go up not only with Missouri patients but from several other neighboring Midwest and states in the South.
SHAPIRO: You prepared for something similar to this in 2016 when Kentucky was left with only one clinic providing abortions. Has this been different from that?
DREITH: Yeah, I think so because all of our abortion providers and including myself are Missouri residents, and they also provide gynecological care in the state of Missouri. And so for a lot of reasons, we feel like we're a clinic that is operating in two states - abiding by the Illinois law but also feeling the direct impact of what's happening in Missouri both professionally and medically and also personally.
SHAPIRO: Alison Dreith is the director of the Hope Clinic in Granite, Ill., just outside St. Louis, Mo. Thanks so much for speaking with us today.
DREITH: Thanks, Ari. Have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.