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Planned Parenthood's RV abortion clinic at Illinois border raises safety concerns, pro-lifers say

Planned Parenthood
The exterior of a Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center is seen on May 31, 2019, in St Louis, Missouri. |

Pro-life activists say Planned Parenthood's plans to deploy a mobile abortion clinic at the Illinois border to serve women from neighboring states where abortion is banned or restricted raises safety and ethics concerns.

As The Associated Press reported Monday, the nation's largest abortion provider announced its intention to establish a mobile abortion clinic that will operate in Illinois and travel near the state's borders with Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.

All three states have implemented near-total bans on abortion following the U.S. Supreme Court's June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which found that the U.S. Constitution doesn't contain a right to abortion. 

The Dobbs decision gave states the authority to regulate abortion, reversing the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Illinois, unlike many of its neighboring states, is one of the 16 states that has codified the right to abortion into state law. 

The RV that will serve as the mobile clinic is 37 feet long and will include two exam rooms, a lab and a waiting room. The mobile clinic plans to offer chemical abortions up to 11 weeks gestation and begin conducting surgical abortions after the first few months.

Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told the AP that the RV is expected to arrive by the end of the month and be operational by the end of the year. 

According to Rodriguez, wait times at her abortion facility along the Missouri-Illinois border have gone from an average of four days to two and a half weeks since the court's ruling.

The clinic, located in Fairview Heights, Illinois, has reportedly seen a 30% increase in abortion patients, with the number of women from outside Missouri and Illinois increasing by more than 340%.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood's St. Louis office, described the mobile abortion clinic as "a way to reduce travel times and distances in order to meet patients at the Illinois border."

Planned Parenthood did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment.

In their interview with AP, McNicholas and Rodriguez declined to discuss safety and security measures for the mobile clinics, which some pro-lifers find revealing. 

"If they don't feel confident in expressing the safety and reliability of this option, then why should women feel comfortable going to them for such intimate medical help?" asked Emma Waters, a research associate in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.

In an interview with CP, Waters questioned what these mobile clinics will do if a woman experiences complications after taking the abortion pill, but the RV has moved to another location by the time the woman realizes something is wrong.

"So you're giving something to women in a state where it's legal, technically, but then you're sending them back to a place where they're not going to know the adequate resources they need should something go wrong, and there's a high likelihood that something can go wrong," Waters said. 

The research associate voiced concerns about whether the mobile abortion clinics can screen women for ectopic pregnancies or other pregnancy complications before administering the abortion pill. 

"Chemical abortions are four times more dangerous than surgical abortions," she asserted, likely referring to a 2015 study titled "Incidence of Emergency Room Department Visits and Complications After Abortion."

The study used data from 2009 and 2010 to assess the abortion complication rate for California women who had abortions through Medicaid and those treated at the emergency room instead of the clinic.

Researchers found that the complication rate was 5.2% for women who took the abortion pill compared to 1.3% for women who had a first-trimester surgical abortion. The major complication rate for the abortion pill was .31% in contrast to .16% for first-trimester surgical abortions. 

"So not only are these chop shops on wheels traveling close to state lines and trying to intercept vulnerable and scared women, but they're also administering a form of abortion that is far more dangerous than the traditional form," Waters said. 

She contends that Planned Parenthood is "taking abortion on demand to a whole new level." 

"This is dehumanizing for women and for the preborn children whose lives they're taking," she stated. "It's a complete disrespect for the laws and the convictions of other states who have voted to protect life in the womb." 

Waters says there seems to be a double standard when it comes to abortion, suggesting that no parent would condone their daughter undergoing a dental procedure or an ovarian cyst removal in an RV. 

"It doesn't seem like a legitimate medical option to practice something so intimate and so vulnerable as an abortion in an RV," Waters said. "There's something unsettling about such a transient, largely low-tech option that just feels very sleazy and wrong." 

Andrea Trudden, vice president of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, one of the largest networks of pregnancy resource centers worldwide, expressed similar concerns. In a Tuesday statement to CP, she accused the abortion organization of putting profit over women's safety.

"In essence, Planned Parenthood's mobile unit can now enter a community, provide chemical and surgical abortions, and simply drive away, leaving patients alone to deal with the recovery and any complications that may arise," she wrote. "How is that 'care'?" 

"Every woman deserves compassion when facing an unexpected pregnancy," Trudden proclaimed. "Women do not need abortion to lead a fulfilling life."

Trudden stressed that crisis pregnancy organizations like hers "provide real care and support as women navigate a very difficult time."

Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood released its 2020-2021 annual report, showing that the organization's affiliates conducted 383,460 abortions in the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2021. The figure is an 8% increase from the 354,871 abortions documented in its 2019-2020 report

In addition, Planned Parenthood reported receiving over $633 million in "Government Health Services Reimbursements & Grants" that same year. This figure constitutes more than a third of Planned Parenthood's total revenue.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: samantha.kamman@christianpost.com.

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