Planned Parenthood says it will help Midwestern patients access abortions if state bans take effect
Regional officials from the organization said they expected Minnesota abortion providers would see a 10 to 25 percent increase in demand for abortion services if neighboring states enforced bans on the procedure.
ST. PAUL — Regional Planned Parenthood officials on Tuesday, May 3, said they would help patients access abortion services in other states if the procedures were outlawed in North Dakota and South Dakota later this year.
A day after Politico released a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion calling for overturning the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, organization leaders said they expect Minnesota clinics could see a 10 to 25 percent increase in demand for abortion services in Minnesota if the case is returned to the states. An official ruling overturning Roe v. Wade would trigger laws in North Dakota and South Dakota immediately making abortion illegal.
Planned Parenthood physicians would continue to help patients in those states to access abortion services, said Dr. Sarah Traxler, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of North Central States. But clinics in North Dakota and South Dakota would close and doctors would not be able to send medications that induce an abortion to people living in those states.
"We have all been planning for this worst-case scenario. Our assumption has been that in some way Roe would be decimated and there would be lack of access to abortion so we've been thinking about our surrounding states and how that might impact the patients who live there," Traxler said. "We are certainly working on ways and funds and support and resources to help people travel from a restrictive environment to one in which they can get services."
The organization has increased its telemedicine offerings and last week rolled out a medication abortion by mail program for Minnesota residents, Traxler said. She said the program could help keep in-clinic abortion options open if patients from other states need to travel to access services.
Traxler predicted that demand for abortions could exceed providers' capacity to provide those services early on but she expected providers adjust as needed. Planned Parenthood of North Central States CEO Sarah Stoesz said the group is not considering opening additional locations at this time but would consider the option if demand for services outpaces availability in Minnesota.
Stoesz and Traxler during a virtual news conference said they'd anticipated the court's ruling but felt stung when they read the draft on Monday night.
"When I first got to work today and I walked into the health center, I was sad, grieved, enraged. But when I saw our staff today, they're here doing what they always do, providing compassionate, patient-centered, expert care and even in the face of extreme adversity and the swirl around them," Traxler said. "They'll continue doing that because it's what our patients deserve and it's health care. We all expected the Supreme Court to attack abortion but to read the potential total decimation of Roe in the court's draft decision is a total gut punch."
Minnesota Democrats and civil rights groups on Tuesday blasted the draft ruling, while Republicans and anti-abortion groups said it was an important first step in reducing abortions in the state.
"This was the stuff of dystopian movies, and it is now on our doorstep," Gov. Tim Walz told reporters at an unrelated news conference in St. Paul. Walz on Monday night said he would work to protect abortion access in Minnesota.
Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives on Tuesday brought two amendments aimed at restricting abortion services in Minnesota but each was ruled out of order in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-led body. Other GOP lawmakers on Tuesday said they were encouraged by the court's draft opinion and what it could mean for Minnesota.
"I think Minnesotans across the board want us to reach a consensus to protect mothers and protect unborn babies," Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, told reporters at the Capitol.