A survey by the Illinois Department of Public Health has found that 5,528 women traveled to the state from other locations to seek out abortions — a statistic that reflects a worrying clamp down on reproductive rights in surrounding Midwest states, according to experts.
According to The Chicago Tribune, the number of out-of-state women who came to Illinois to terminate their pregnancies increased by nearly 1,000 in 2017, up from 4,543 women in 2016 to 5,528 last year. The spike may in fact be even higher; an additional 1,000 abortions were provided to women whose home states were not known.
The data does not reveal why these women traveled to terminate their pregnancies, but experts believe many of them were left with little choice due to restrictive abortion policies in other Midwest states.
Though southern states are often the focus of discussions about recent rollbacks on reproductive rights, the Midwest actually has the fewest abortion clinics per woman than any other region in the United States. Illinois is an exception to the rule; it has approximately one abortion clinic for every 120,135 women of child-bearing age. Wisconsin, by way of comparison, has just one clinic for every 423,590 women.
Iowa is another nearby state known for its efforts to roll back on abortion access. It unsuccessfully attempted to impose a 72-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions, and a judge recently blocked lawmakers’ efforts to implement a “fetal heart beat law,” which would have banned abortions from about six weeks of pregnancy. As of 2014, 89 percent of Iowa counties did not have any clinics that provided abortions.
“When access to abortion is politically restricted, those who have the means to travel will do so, and those without means are left most vulnerable,” Becca Lee, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told the Tribune. “If someone can travel, they may be forced to take time from work, incur additional expenses, take time from family and make other sacrifices in order to access a safe, legal abortion procedure — and they shouldn’t have to.”
Read the full story at The Chicago Tribune.