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Illinois Lawmaker Discusses New Planned Parenthood Facility


One of the states that have passed new laws restricting access to abortion is Missouri. Parts of the law there have been blocked from going into effect by a federal judge. But other restrictions have prompted speculation that the state's only abortion clinic in St. Louis may have to close soon. Meanwhile, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in Illinois, a large, new Planned Parenthood clinic has been under construction in secret for more than a year. Illinois passed a law earlier this year expanding abortion rights at a time when demand for the procedure in the state is surging.

Katie Stuart is an Illinois state representative. She co-sponsored the Reproductive Health Care Act (ph) and represents the district where the new Planned Parenthood facility was built. And she's with us now from the studios of St. Louis Public Radio.

Representative Stuart, thank you so much for talking with us.

KATIE STUART: Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: First, can you just explain why Planned Parenthood wanted to keep construction of this facility a secret?

STUART: I think it's because we know that there are protesters. For safety reasons, they don't want people in the way of the construction process. They want to stay on schedule and on time to complete the medical facility they were working on.

MARTIN: And why this location? Because, as I understand it, it's about 15 miles from the last remaining Planned Parenthood in Missouri and another abortion provider in Illinois. Why put this facility so close to the other two?

STUART: Well, I think that was a decision made based on the needs of the patients that Planned Parenthood serves. The location specifically is very close to interstate access, so it's easy for people who unfortunately are needing to travel from our other neighboring states as well - not just Missouri but Indiana and all around. So I think it was really a matter of patient access.

MARTIN: And do you have a sense of how many women come from out-of-state to get service?

STUART: I know that the whole clinic has said that just over 50% of their patients come from out of state, and I think the bulk are from Missouri. I do think we could possibly see an upsurge. I think a lot of women are just confused, you know, day by day whether the St. Louis facility is actually open or not. So they're just opting to come across to our state, where we have said, you can be guaranteed that you can make an appointment and see a doctor.

MARTIN: Critics are claiming that this facility is this - is a business move, really, and that the intention is to draw in more patients and make more money with a bigger facility. Can you speak to that?

STUART: Planned Parenthood provides access to cancer screenings and contraception and just - you know, it's not only an abortion provider. It's a full spectrum of medical care that's vital for women, and it provides that at a cost that women can afford. So if that's what they're trying to do is to be able to serve more patients, I think that's great.

MARTIN: And looking ahead, again, to the upcoming Supreme Court term, if you don't mind - and forgive me if I'm asking you to speculate. Are you concerned that this court will restrict access to abortion around the country? I mean, that seems to be the issue here of whether this remains - access to abortion remains something that can be accessed nationwide as opposed to in certain states. Is that a concern of yours? Do you think that that's what's coming?

STUART: I do think it's a possibility I do think that was a big reason why we had some - I don't want to say trouble, but the Reproductive Health Act started early in our session but didn't really pick up steam until the end, when we saw other states enacting these very restrictive policies. And I think a lot of the reason why we saw the necessity to get the Reproductive Health Act passed in Illinois was counter in place for if this court is to go more conservative.

MARTIN: That was Illinois state representative Katie Stuart. She represents Illinois's 112th District and co-sponsored the Reproductive Health Care Act.

Representative Stuart, thank you so much for talking to us today.

STUART: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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