Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Illinois share details of partnership to expand abortion access

MADISON, Wis. Planned Parenthood of Illinois and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin on Thursday answered questions about a joint partnership to increase abortion access in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last month overturning Roe v. Wade.

During a virtual news conference Thursday morning, Jennifer Welch, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois, said she’s aware that Illinois could become an “oasis” for abortion services, as abortion is still legal in Illinois. 

“Doors are open at 17 Planned Parenthood health centers, including our Waukegan health center near the Wisconsin border,” Welch said.

Welch said as of Thursday, Planned Parenthood of Illinois has seen a tenfold increase of patients from Wisconsin coming to Illinois. 

“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in patients coming from Wisconsin to all Planned Parenthood health centers,” she said. “This is clear evidence that abortion restrictions and bans do not stop people from having abortions. Restrictions and bans only make it harder for people to access existential reproductive care where they live.” 

Tanya Atkinson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, agrees that this partnership is essential for people to get the care they need. 

“The Supreme Court’s news has been absolutely devastating for the people of Wisconsin,” she said. “It’s forcing people to travel sometimes hundreds of miles for health care, at great cost, great disruption to their personal lives, or has forced them to remain pregnant.”

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, Wisconsin’s abortion access was already heavily restricted, Atkinson said, adding 96% of Wisconsin counties had no abortion provider and 63% of Wisconsin women lived in those counties without services available. 

READ MORE: A pregnancy, a phone call, a canceled appointment: A Wisconsin woman’s abortion journey after Roe’s overturn

Dr. Allison Linton, an associate medical director at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, also spoke at Thursday morning’s Zoom call. She has decided to commute to Illinois to provide abortion care. 

“The patients I see who have abortions are your friends, your family, your neighbors, and members of your community,” Dr. Linton said. “They deserve access to safe and timely medical care.”

The chief strategy and operations officer Kristen Schultz shared that the majority of the staff and team providing abortion care in Wisconsin have agreed to travel to Illinois to meet patient needs. She detailed that the Waukegan health center specifically will be seeing these additional staffing additions. 

Welch said something that makes this partnership between the Wisconsin and Illinois organizations more unique than ever before is the number of providers who’ve needed to get cross-licensed to provide services in both states.

“While some providers might have worked for multiple states before, we haven’t seen it at this volume,” Welsh said.

RELATED: PHMDC to expand reproductive health services and hours in response to Roe v. Wade reversal

As for those who live in northern Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood also addressed transportation efforts that the organization has put in place to reduce transportation barriers in Illinois. 

“We provide direct resources as needed if people want to travel to Illinois or another state,” Atkinson said. “Transportation is the number one need that we see at this point.”

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin also acknowledged its support for a group of doctors in the Dane County area who plan to open reproductive health clinics in Rockford for women seeking care.

RELATED: Wisconsin doctor buys Illinois buildings to offer abortions

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is a nonprofit health care provider serving 60,000 patients annually at 22 health centers. In Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health care services outside of just abortion services, including well woman exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, birth control and abortion care at three locations.