With Indiana’s ban now in place, patients seeking abortions must travel even further

With Indiana’s abortion ban in place, in-state and out-of-state patients will likely have to travel even farther to access care, providers say. Patients are now likely to travel to Illinois or Ohio, where abortions have temporarily resumed while a lawsuit challenging the ban continues.

Abortion clinics in Indiana and Illinois saw an influx of patients in the days before Indiana’s ban went into effect on Sept. 15. A Sept. 19 hearing could temporarily allow abortions to resume in the state. It’s part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by abortion providers challenging the legality of the ban under the Indiana state constitution.

Indiana’s ban makes it a crime to provide abortion services and allows only limited exceptions. Abortions up to certain stages of pregnancy are permitted if the woman’s life is in danger, the fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Vendors who violate the ban will have their license revoked and face one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Dr. Katie McHugh, an abortion provider who works at several Planned Parenthood clinics and one of two independent clinics in Indianapolis, said the clinics where she works have seen a surge in patients coming from Indiana and beyond states.

“People are so nervous about being pregnant in Indiana right now,” McHugh told ABC News.

This image provided by Women’s Med, an abortion clinic in Indianapolis, shows the clinic empty on Sept. 15, 2022, the day the state’s abortion ban went into effect.

Women’s Medicine via AP

McHugh said the number of patients at an independent clinic where she works doubled between June and September 15 compared to the same period last year. More patients are also choosing surgical abortions over medication abortions, fearing they will need follow-up care after the ban goes into effect if they have any complications with the abortion pill regimen, McHugh said.

McHugh said she has also witnessed “dramatically different” behavior in patients over the past two weeks. Patients were more angry, anxious and open about their feelings. McHugh said it was drastically different from what she was used to seeing; she is more used to calming patients.

Because there is a waiting period in Indiana, McHugh said as of Wednesday, the clinics where she works are referring patients who call to book their first appointment to other out-of-state clinics.

Now patients will have to travel to other states, such as Illinois or Michigan, to get abortion care, McHugh said. From Indianapolis, women would have to drive two hours to get to care in Dayton, Ohio, where abortion is temporarily available pending an ongoing lawsuit, or drive two hours to Champaign, Illinois, she said.

Two independent Indianapolis abortion clinics will close if a lawsuit challenging the legality of Indiana’s abortion ban fails to halt its implementation. Planned Parenthood and an independent clinic called Women’s Med will remain open to offer patients other reproductive care services and referrals to receive care in other states, McHugh said.

Although Indiana’s ban allows for a few exceptions, all of these abortions must be performed in licensed hospitals; the ban removes the licensing class from abortion clinics, prohibiting them from providing any type of abortion care. So access will be limited even to patients who can legally obtain an abortion as the state reduces the number of sites where patients can get abortion services.

Abortion care in hospitals is more expensive and takes longer. The further along in the pregnancy the abortion procedure is “inherently more dangerous,” McHugh said.

While some patients could wait to get abortion care, others could be harmed by the wait because things can change so quickly during pregnancy, McHugh said.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois said it had been preparing for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and further restrictions on abortion in many states for years. In anticipation of the influx of patients traveling from outside of Indiana for treatment, the company is working to increase capacity at its clinics, even announcing an expansion of its Champaign health center to facilitate access to double the number of patients it can currently see.

In Illinois, Planned Parenthood expects to see an increase of between 20,000 and 30,000 additional out-of-state patients next year, Kristen Schultz, chief strategy and operations officer for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told ABC News.

“In recent months, we’ve seen a doubling of patients from Indiana, but we expect that to increase significantly in the coming weeks and months, possibly up to a 10-fold increase,” Schultz said.

PHOTO: Anti-abortion protesters attempt to hand out literature as they stand in the driveway of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Indianapolis, Aug. 16, 2019.

Anti-abortion protesters attempt to hand out literature as they stand in the driveway of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Indianapolis on August 16, 2019.

Michael Conroy/AP, FILE

Patients in states where the bans are already in place will likely have to continue traveling even further for care now that it’s not available to them in Indiana, Schultz said.

She added, “Patients have been seen in Indiana from surrounding states, and now their trip will increase by several 100 miles and possibly several hours to take the extra step to get to Illinois.”

When Roe was overturned, Wisconsin’s 1846 state law banning abortion went into effect. Planned Parenthood of Illinois said it has seen a 10-fold increase in patients coming from Wisconsin since abortions were banned in the state.

“Now nearly 30 percent of our total abortion patients have traveled to Illinois from out of state. So even in the last two months, we’ve seen abortion patients from 28 states outside of Illinois,” Schultz said.

In the past, patients traveled to Illinois for treatment from places like Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri, but now they come from states as far away as Texas, Kentucky, Iowa, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, Schultz said.

Despite that influx of patients, Schultz said wait times at Planned Parenthood clinics in Illinois have remained the same since Roe was overturned. The wait time depends on the type of abortion care the patient needs, but Schultz said many can receive care within a few days, and in some cases they have to wait more than a week.

Abortion restrictions have different effects on patients, but some of the things Planned Parenthood is seeing include patients flying for the first time to get care, patients needing childcare, and patients asking for gas cards , as gas prices have gotten more expensive, Schultz said.

Schultz said abortion restrictions would likely disproportionately affect disadvantaged people.

“Not everyone has the resources and ability to travel for an abortion, and those patients who already face enormous barriers to care are the most likely to be further harmed by restrictive state laws and bans like we’re seeing in Indiana,” Schultz said.

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