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Across the Missouri-Illinois border, an abortion sanctuary in the American Midwest – Health and Lifestyle News – Report by AFR

Abortion is now illegal in Lori Lamprich’s home state of Missouri, but that hasn’t stopped her from taking women to her appointments — she drives them across the Mississippi to Illinois, where it remains legal.

“I’m here to fight against the Force and to do what I can to defy these laws, which I think are totally inhuman and unfair,” the 39-year-old told AFP at her St. Louis home , a city with 300,000 inhabitants.

As a resident of the Gateway to the West, Lamprich feels well placed to help the thousands of Missourians who seek abortions each year, many of whom travel hundreds of miles for the procedure.

On her side of the river, in St. Louis proper, abortion is now illegal — with no exceptions for incest or rape — after Missouri became the first state to act on the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade to strike down the 1973 ruling that enshrined abortion rights in the US on Friday.

But reproductive rights are being protected in the larger metropolitan areas of the city across the water in Democratic-run Illinois, which is bracing for an influx of women from neighboring conservative Midwest states that restrict abortion.

Lamprich has been driving women volunteers for the past two years for the Midwest Access Coalition (MAC), formed in 2014 to help people in a region where abortion policies have long been among the most restrictive in the country.

MAC provides travel and accommodation facilities for mostly low-income women seeking the costly procedure.

Lamprich became involved with the organization after having an abortion 15 years ago and says it “breaks her heart” that women no longer have access to the same care she received.

“It absolutely strengthens my resolve,” Lamprich said of the judges’ verdict.

– “Safe haven” –

By Friday, she could have brought patients to Missouri’s last remaining abortion clinic: Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. But doctors there performed their final procedure shortly after the court’s verdict, when dueling demonstrations were taking place outside.

Now the two closest clinics are in Illinois: the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, 10 miles away, and the Planned Parenthood in Fairview Heights, 15 miles away, which opened in 2019 in anticipation of the ban.

At the Hope Clinic, volunteers escort patients inside and shield them with umbrellas from anti-abortionists who hold placards depicting a bloody fetus.

“It’s not really a big victory,” said a Catholic priest, who declined to be named, of the Supreme Court ruling.

“Abortion is still possible, just drive around here or there,” he told AFP.

Inside, the phones keep ringing. A caller said she would be driving five hours to her appointment.

The clinic has performed abortions on women from 19 different states this year. It sees between 4,500 and 5,000 women annually, but co-owner Julie Burkhart expects the number could quickly double or triple.

“We’re anticipating a pretty dramatic increase in our patient burden,” she said, adding that the clinic is hiring more staff and increasing patient days.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has promised his state will remain a “safe haven” for reproductive rights in the Midwest. All contiguous states — including Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and Wisconsin — have or are expected to restrict abortion.

– “To important” –

According to official figures, more than 46,000 abortions were performed in Illinois in 2020, a fifth of them to women from other states, including 6,500 from Missouri.

Planned Parenthood estimates that an additional 20,000 to 30,000 people could travel to Illinois each year.

“It’s an incredible weight to put on a state,” said Sandy Pensoneau-Conway, an advocate for Choices, a Memphis-based clinic opening a new location 200 miles (320 kilometers) north in Carbondale, southern Illinois. to help meet needs.

An abortion typically costs between $500 and $2,500. As women need to travel farther, the nonprofit MAC may need to seek additional funding to cover increased transportation and hotel costs.

Lamprich rides an average of one to two women a month, but expects to be needed every weekend soon and is willing to make the 10-hour round trip to Chicago if the clinics near St. Louis are overwhelmed are.

Experts warn states may seek to prosecute people who help women cross state lines for an abortion. If so, Lamprich is undeterred.

“It’s too important to me,” she concludes.

#MissouriIllinois #border #abortion #sanctuary #American #Midwest

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