A new Planned Parenthood facility in southern Illinois was built in secret, CBS News first reported. Later this month, it’ll open its doors to patients.
The 18,000-square-foot Fairview Heights facility will be able to accommodate 11,000 patients a year and will help the women’s health-care provider meet a surging demand from Missouri, which has only one abortion provider for a state of more than 6 million people.
An existing, smaller Fairview Heights facility took care of 5,000 patients last year alone, according to Planned Parenthood’s announcement. The new facility would provide family planning as well as a wide array of women’s health-care services, including annual exams, breast cancer screenings and STD tests. It will offer both medical and surgical abortions.
Missouri has some of the most severe abortion restrictions in the country, while neighboring Illinois has expanded access to its residents. Planned Parenthood operates the only remaining abortion provider in Missouri, located in St. Louis. That clinic will remain open, according to the organization.
“The new health center is a testament to the needs of the greater bi-state region and our commitment to provide, protect and expand access to health care, no matter what,” Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in a statement.
In an interview with CBS News, McNicholas explained that Planned Parenthood was “really intentional and thoughtful about making sure that we were able to complete this project as expeditiously as possible because we saw the writing on the wall — patients need better access, so we wanted to get it open as quickly as we could.”
“For some the 13-mile drive from our St. Louis clinic to this Illinois clinic is an opportunity for them to get that care with less judgment, less restriction, and far fewer hoops to jump through,” she said.
Planned Parenthood spent a portion of the summer locked in a legal battle to keep its St. Louis clinic open. In June, the state’s health department attempted to deny a permit renewal application that allowed the clinic to perform abortions, but Planned Parenthood took its appeal to a state appeals panel and eventually won a stay.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Mary Kate Knorr, the executive director of anti-abortion group Illinois Right to Life, contended Planned Parenthoods’ goal with the facility was to make money.
“Make no mistake — this new mega-facility is not a response to an increased demand, nor is it a gesture of care for women,” Knorr said.
“The construction of this new facility was a strategic business move — certainly not a defense of women," her statement continued.
In recent years, Missouri has passed several laws that restrict access to abortion. Women who wish to have an abortion must go through a 72-hour waiting period, and must receive “informed consent” materials detailing the medical risks of abortion and describing the fetus at its current stage of development.
This year, Missouri also attempted to pass a law that would ban abortion after eight weeks, among other measures. In August, a federal judge temporarily blocked the eight-week ban from going into effect on the grounds that it conflicted with prior Supreme Court rulings, and that it posed a “threat of irreparable harm” to patients. However, the bill contained other restrictions that did go into effect, including a prohibition against abortions conducted because of the fetus’s race, sex or a prenatal test that indicates Down syndrome. The law mandates that a woman considering an abortion must be given materials that say: “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”