Abortion clinics in Illinois have become a safe space for women seeking the procedure and a threat to officials in neighboring states looking to restrict access as officials prepare to serve up to five times as many patients ahead of the Supreme Court's blockbuster abortion case that could weaken federal protections, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The high court's conservative justices during nearly two hours of oral arguments Wednesday signaled that they were receptive to Mississippi's arguments that abortion decisions should be left to the states, a move that would abolish Roe v. Wade, the court's 1973 decision that legalized the procedure in the United States.
The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, is the first explicit challenge to Roe v. Wade in almost 30 years and is based on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban.
Illinois is one of more than a dozen states that have passed laws protecting abortion rights — Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019 signed a sweeping abortion access protection bill into law as a slew of Republican states pushed forward bills restricting abortion access.
"All of our building in the last five years has been with the possibility of a loss of Roe in mind," Jennifer Welch, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Journal. The organization has built two new abortion clinics and health centers near the Wisconsin border.
Other abortion providers have opened new locations as they anticipate an influx of patients if Roe v. Wade is overturned — about half of U.S. states could restrict access if that happens.
"We recognize how critical Illinois is and the kind of mandate that we have," Chicago Abortion Fund Executive Director Megan Jefiyo told the news outlet.
Her organization is doubling its volunteers and adding 14 case managers because of a heavy caseload. The Hope Clinic for Women, an independent abortion provider, has doubled the number of doctors on its rotation, increased full time staff by at least 30%, and opened for more days.
"We are not just protecting our own residents, we're protecting people across the country," Hope Clinic Executive Director Erin King said.
"Illinois is pretty much an existential threat to the pro-life laws of all of our neighboring states," Amy Gehrke, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, said.
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