Updated October 9, 2019
With a very large abortion clinic set to open in Metro East, Illinois is becoming a destination for women from neighboring states with stricter abortion laws. The opening, expected in October, is causing controversy in Fairview Heights, where it was built in secret.
Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky told the Belleville News-Democrat, the news of the 18,000-square-foot clinic came as a complete surprise to city officials.
“It’s not the type of news we would like to hear about in Fairview Heights,” he said. “We certainly don’t want to have negative publicity about the city.”
Planned Parenthood announced in early October that it had built the mega-clinic in Fairview Heights. Its representatives say the clinic is expected to serve 11,000 patients a year.
Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, admitted in the press conference announcing the clinic that Planned Parenthood created a shell company to obtain a building permit to avoid protests and possible construction delays.
According to the News-Democrat, Kupsky instructed the city’s attorney “to look into Fairview Heights’ ordinances to make sure nothing was done that was ‘out-of-line’ by Planned Parenthood,” but no issues were found.
The clinic is just 13-miles from St. Louis where Missouri officials have threatened to close another Planned Parenthood Clinic for violations of state code. Missouri has also enacted stricter abortion laws as have other states surrounding Illinois. A 2018 study by the University of California, Berkley found the Midwest and South had the fewest number of abortion clinics in the U.S. with Illinois having the most clinics in the Midwest.
Illinois Right to Life Executive Director Mary Kate Knorr said in a statement, “Make no mistake – this new mega-facility is not a response to an increased demand, nor is it a gesture of care for women. This facility was created to fill the gaping hole they’re seeing in their bottom line. The increase in pro-life laws across the country coupled with President Trump’s Protect Life Rule has undoubtedly had a devastating impact on Planned Parenthood’s abortion revenue. This is a money-making venture, and Illinois is the most abortion-friendly state in the country. The construction of this new facility was a strategic business move – certainly not a defense of women.”
A dubious destination
The abortion-friendly laws in the state are making Illinois an abortion destination. The numbers seem to bear this out. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, in 2018 (the most recent year statistics are available) 5,528 women came to Illinois to have an abortion. That’s nearly 1,000 more than the previous year.
At the press conference Rodriguez noted, “The idea and the goal of opening this particular facility is to expand access across the region and to be able to serve not just the unmet needs for services in Illinois, but also Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Kentucky.”
But the Midwestern states aren’t the only ones being served by abortion clinics in Illinois. Pro-life activist and head of Small Victories Pregnancy Outreach Angela Michael said on the organization’s Facebook page that the clinic will be “the largest in the nation.”
In videos she posts while standing outside nearby Granite City’s Hope Clinic, which performs abortions daily, Michael points out state license plates on the cars in the parking lot. “Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Illinois,” she said noting some of the women she saw entering the clinic were heavily pregnant. Illinois joined New York in legalizing abortion through the ninth month over the summer.
Ralph Rivera, legislative chairman for Illinois Right to Life Action, said, “With the passage of HB40, the tax-payer funding of abortions through Medicaid, with the passage of the extreme abortion law this spring, this is what Planned Parenthood is counting on women to come into their facility and have tax-payers funding it.” In October 2018 Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (IDHFS) reported 2,758 abortions were reimbursed by Medicaid.
Comments from Jessica Herbert, an abortion provider at the Belleville, IL Planned Parenthood Clinic, to CBS News confirm this. Noting that recent patients tend to all come from Missouri, she said, “It’s because they can’t access basic healthcare in Missouri. There is a lot of hoops they have to jump through. It’s fiscally easier for them to come here.” The Belleville clinic is just two miles from the new Fairview Heights clinic.
In the meantime, Knorr is putting Planned Parenthood on notice. “Let the executives of Planned Parenthood be aware that their stronghold here is temporary. We aren’t going anywhere. We will continue to fight to expose Planned Parenthood’s lies, manipulations, and their deep-seated hatred for the most vulnerable members of our human race. It was true when legislators passed the Reproductive Healthcare Act in the spring, and it remains true now: they have overplayed their hand. In due time, the truth will reign.”