Kansas City, Kan. (AP) – When Planned Parenthood decided four years ago to open a new clinic here in a medically deprived working-class neighborhood, it envisioned a place that would save women living in the area from hour-long bus rides to get birth control, tests or an abortion..
The June Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade . will be destroyed – four days before the clinic opened – that all changed. Because Kansas is one of the few states in the region where abortion remains legal, the clinic was soon inundated with calls not only from panicked patients in Kansas and nearby Missouri, but also in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas—even so far away. as Louisiana.
This clinic and other Planned Parenthood centers in Kansas have gone out of their way to help by extending hours, hiring staff, and flying doctors in. Yet they have only been able to accommodate about 10% to 15% of patients who wanted to have an abortion.
“The ecosystem, it’s not even vulnerable. It’s broken,” said Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “I think there’s a perception that if you’re looking for care, you can find it somewhere. 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 accidents. 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 crazy 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 already combines 12-hour shifts as a patient care technician in a hospital with the care of her 2 and 6 year olds.
“The two kids, like they’re good, you know, the ends have been reached,” she said. “Involving a baby in that, I just don’t think that would be a good idea right now.”
Ruark walked past screaming protesters to enter the new clinic. It took her nearly two hours to get the abortion pill after meeting Dr. Elizabeth Brett Daily. By law, Daily only had to wait 30 minutes after Ruark’s arrival to dispense the medication, but the clinic was busy.
Thousands of patients are likely not getting appointments at all, according to a national tracking effort called #WeCount, which is led by the Society of Family Planning, a nonprofit organization that promotes abortion and birth control research.
The association’s report, released in October, found that there were 6% fewer abortions performed nationwide in August — when many of the more restrictive abortion bans were in effect — compared to the number of abortions administered nationwide. in April, before Roe was destroyed.
Some of the banning states saw abortion rates drop from a staggering 2,770 in April to fewer than 10 in August, while neighboring states that still allow the procedure saw their abortion rates increase, the study found. In Kansas, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and North Carolina, the number of abortions performed in August was at least 30% higher than the number administered in April. In Illinois, 28% more abortions were performed in August than in April.
The study had some limitations, including that only 79% of all identified abortion providers — including clinics, private medical offices and hospitals — provided data. The organization says the numbers represent an estimated 82% of all abortions nationwide.
Few outside of Kansas expected the state to play this greater role in providing abortions, said Elizabeth Nash, chief policy officer for state issues for the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
“It’s a pretty conservative place. You know, it’s not like Colorado or Illinois where people thought these would definitely be entry points,” Nash said.
Abortion opponents have been influential in Kansas politics since the 1991 Summer of Mercy protests in Wichita, as thousands of anti-abortion activists gathered in Wichita, sparking protests that led to nearly 2,700 arrests.
The picture may change. Voters continue to elect large anti-abortion majorities in the legislature, but in August they overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have paved the way for stricter abortion restrictions or a ban.
The demand for abortion in Kansas only promises to grow. While the proceedings remain legal in neighboring Iowa and Nebraska, both are conservative, and Nash described the states as “waiting bans.”
The staff routinely turns away patients who want to make an appointment at the new clinic and the two other abortion clinics that Planned Parenthood has in Kansas, saying they don’t have a waiting list and whether they can get an appointment in Colorado or New Mexico to the.
But there are no guarantees in those two states either, said Dr. Kristina Tocce, medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
“I suppose for every patient that can come to us and we can see that there are a lot of patients who don’t have access to care,” Tocce said, adding that the number of out-of-state patients has risen.
Making an appointment in Kansas City is luck of the draw. Local patients are not a priority, but have an advantage because they can more easily get weekday consultations. Planned Parenthood leaders said adding a fourth clinic is one of the options being considered to increase access, but they haven’t released any details.
Daily, of the new Kansas clinic, said she was drawn to the job after a stint with the Peace Corps in the West African country of Togo. She saw victims of sexual violence and ‘many, many’ women and their babies die in childbirth.
Here too, the doctor sees horrific stories. A recent abortion patient was 13, her face so bruised from the attack that she could barely open one of her eyes in the waiting room.
Today, getting an abortion appointment is like winning the lottery.
“Think about our current health care system and how hard it is to just get a primary care visit,” she said. “Thousands of times, because that’s how difficult it is for abortion care these days.”
Among the patients Daily saw recently was a 29-year-old mother of two who asked not to use her name because she didn’t want her family and friends to know. The woman said she initially planned to carry on with her pregnancy. But then her 3-year-old daughter suffered a terrifying 40-minute seizure that temporarily paralyzed her. It was her 13th major attack 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 broken up, so she sat alone at her daughter’s bedside.
“I thought to myself, ‘It’s not fair, you know, not being able to give another kid my full attention.’
She knows that some people will not understand her decision.
“People are just quick to judge,” she says. “Many people have religious beliefs. ‘Oh no. You can not do that.’ But to me, I don’t think people take the time to get to know someone and realize what their situation really is.”