Abortion clinic, which opened days after Roe’s fall, is swamped with patients

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — When Planned Parenthood decided four years ago to open a new clinic here in a medically underserved working-class neighborhood, it envisioned a location that would save women who live nearby hours of bus rides to receive birth control , tests or an abortion.

The June decision of the US Supreme Court in Roe v. Picking up Wade — four days before the clinic opened — changed all that. Because Kansas is one of the few states in the region where abortion is still legal, the clinic was soon inundated with calls, and not just from panicked patients from Kansas and nearby Missouri, but also from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas – even as far as Louisiana.

This clinic and other Planned Parenthood centers in Kansas have done their best to help by extending hours, hiring staff, and flying in doctors. Still, they could only accept about 10% to 15% of patients who want an abortion.

“The ecosystem is not even fragile. It’s broken,” said Emily Wales, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “I think there’s a notion that if you seek care, you can find care anywhere. And that’s not true.”

Haley Ruark of Platte City, Missouri, was able to get an appointment on a recent Wednesday after a two-week wait — longer than she wanted, but better than driving hundreds of miles west to Colorado.

Ruark had panicked after a series of birth control mishaps. First a condom broke and then, despite taking the morning-after pill, a pregnancy test came back positive. Missouri prohibits abortion in all cases except medical emergencies.

“It was just idiotic that a law was passed that you can’t do what you think is necessary for your body and not even for your body but also for your mental health,” Ruark said.

She is already balancing 12 hour shifts as a nursing technician at a hospital with caring for her 2 and 6 year olds.

“The two kids, like they’re good, you know, the end is here,” she said. “Bringing a baby, I just don’t think that would be a good idea at the moment.”

Ruark walked past screaming protesters to get into the new clinic. After meeting with Dr. Elizabeth Brett Daily took her almost two hours to get the abortion pill. By law, Daily only had to wait 30 minutes after Ruark’s arrival to dispense the drug, but the clinic was busy.

Thousands of patients are likely not getting appointments at all, according to a national tracking campaign called #WeCount, which is led by the Society of Family Planning, a nonprofit that funds abortion and contraception research.

The Society’s report, released in October, found that there were 6% fewer abortions nationwide in August — when many of the more restrictive abortion bans were in place — compared to the number of nationwide abortions in April, before Roe was lifted.

Some of the states with bans saw the number of abortions fall from as many as 2,770 in April to under 10 in August, while the number of abortions in neighboring states that still allow the procedure increased, the survey found. In Kansas, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and North Carolina, the number of abortions performed in August was at least 30% higher than in April. In Illinois, 28% more abortions were performed in August than in April.

The study had some limitations, including the fact that only 79% of all identified abortion providers — including clinics, private medical practices, and hospitals — provided data. The society says the numbers account for an estimated 82% of all abortions performed nationwide.

Few outside of Kansas expected the state to take on this larger role in providing abortions, said Elizabeth Nash, senior policy officer for state affairs at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that advocates for abortion rights.

“It’s a pretty conservative place. You know, it’s not like Colorado or Illinois where people thought those were definitely going to be access points,” Nash said.

Anti-abortion activists have influenced Kansas politics since the 1991 Summer of Mercy protests in Wichita, when thousands of anti-abortion activists gathered in Wichita and sparked protests that resulted in nearly 2,700 arrests.

The picture is subject to change. Voters continue to elect large anti-abortion majorities into the legislature, but in August they overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have paved the way for tougher abortion restrictions or a ban.

Abortion demand in Kansas only promises to grow. While the process remains legal in neighboring Iowa and Nebraska, both are conservative and Nash described the states as “bans on hold.”

Staff routinely turn away patients seeking an appointment at the new clinic and the other two abortion clinics Planned Parenthood operates in Kansas, telling them they don’t have a waiting list and whether they can get an appointment in Colorado or New Mexico it.

But even in those two states, there are no guarantees, said Dr. Kristina Tocce, medical director for Planned Parenthood in the Rocky Mountains.

“My expectation is that for every patient that can come to us and that we can see, there are a lot of patients who don’t have access to care,” Tocce said, adding that the out-of-state patient population is strong has increased.

Getting an appointment in Kansas City is a matter of luck. Local patients are not prioritised, but have an advantage because they are easier to get to weekday consultations. Planned Parenthood leaders said adding a fourth clinic is among options being considered to increase access, but they haven’t released details.

Daily of the new Kansas clinic said she was drawn to the work after a stint with the Peace Corps in the West African nation of Togo. She saw victims of sexual assault and “many, many” women and their babies died in childbirth.

Here, too, the doctor sees horrible stories. A recently aborted patient was 13 years old, her face so bruised from the assault she had suffered that she could barely open one of her eyes in the waiting room.

Daily now compares an appointment for an abortion to winning the lottery.

“Think of our current healthcare system and how hard it is to just get a primary care visit,” she said. “Do that by a thousand, because that’s how hard it is for abortion these days.”

Among the patients Daily saw recently was a 29-year-old mother of two who requested that her name not be used because she didn’t want her family and friends to know. The woman said she originally planned to carry her pregnancy to term. But then her 3-year-old daughter had a terrible 40-minute seizure that left her temporarily paralyzed. It was her 13th major seizure in the past year.

Doctors intubated the little girl and the woman hastily arranged for her 9-month-old son to be with his father. The couple had split up, so she sat alone at her daughter’s bedside.

“I was like, ‘It’s not fair, you know, not being able to give another kid my full attention.’

She knows some people won’t understand her decision.

“People are just quick to judge,” she said. “Many people have religious beliefs. ‘Oh no. You can not.’ But for me, I just don’t think people take the time to get to know someone and see what their situation is really like.”

https://wgntv.com/news/nexstar-media-wire/abortion-clinic-that-opened-days-after-roe-fell-is-inundated-with-patients/ Abortion clinic, which opened days after Roe’s fall, is swamped with patients

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