Voters Kept Abortion Legal In Kansas, But Clinics Cant Keep Up

Voters Kept Abortion Legal In Kansas, But Clinics Cant Keep Up


Abortion remains legal, albeit severely restricted, in Kansas. This does not mean that it is easy to find dates.

On the sidewalk outside the Women's Trust clinic in Wichita, anti-abortion protesters scratched at their license plates and yelled at cars entering the parking lot.

Most of them now come from out of state after abortion bans in states like Texas and Oklahoma have forced women across state lines, so much so that some Kansas women have been forced to hold meetings out of state.

It started last year when Texas passed a law banning abortion before most women get pregnant. Another push came in May, when Oklahoma became the first state to ban abortion. And then this summer, the case came to a head after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“Once the decision was made, we fully expected — especially the number of states around us with recall bans — to see an increase,” said Ashley Brink, director of Women's Confidence Clinic. “And we are definitely seeing an increase not only in the number of calls, but also in the number of patients.”

According to him, patients who come from far away have subsequent pregnancies, sometimes they have already left other clinics. This means that they often require more complex procedures.

The new reality has changed everything for employees, starting with their conversations.

"Three years ago, two years ago, we were talking to patients, 'Where will you eat next?' Because these are local residents who were treated in their state,” said the head doctor of the clinic, Christina Born, “now our conversation turned to “How far have you traveled? Where are you from?"

This means they are turning away more women. Often, Brink has to ask patients to call back within a few weeks or try their luck at another out-of-state clinic.

If the patient is from Kansas, they may be referred to a clinic in Colorado. If someone is calling from Texas or Oklahoma, New Mexico might be the closest option. Women from Arkansas and Louisiana can go to Illinois.

“The next best option for them would be the coast if they could fly,” he said. "And we know it's not possible for everyone."

Mahila Trust is recruiting more staff and is refurbishing to accommodate more patients. But employees are wary of the clinic's capabilities in the face of growing demand.

“We can really do abortions 24 hours a day and not keep up with demand,” Bourne said. “After all, we are human too. People have families. People have lives to take care of. We are focused on the long term and if we sprint out right on the threshold, it will not be sustainable for us.”

Demand for Kansas clinics could increase as more states tighten abortion restrictions in the post-Roe era.

“Our entire region is trying to figure out how to meet (the need) because Kansas is a really important access point to healthcare right now,” said Emily Wells, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which is based in Kansas, Missouri. , Oklahoma and Arkansas.

This summer, the organization opened a new clinic in Kansas City, Kansas to meet demand. In addition to medical abortion, the clinic offers contraceptives, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and transgender hormone therapy.

But Welsh said finding doctors for Kansas's three family planning offices is no easy task.

“You can’t leave Kansas without control, supervision and fear,” he said. "People ask us when they think they're working with us."

He launched a new Patient Navigation Center in Wichita to help people deal with the practical and emotional issues of out-of-state abortion — something Welsh says has become important since Rowe's fall.

“We have staff for patients with more complex issues, a team of many people across four states trying to help patients get the logistics right,” he said.

The Center for Abortion and Reproductive Equity will help people understand the limitations of the region and coordinate funding and travel. She hires social workers to help callers in distress, which is seen most often in clinics as women struggle with things like being fired from their jobs. Sometimes the need to travel abroad forces them to talk about abortion with people they might not otherwise be able to talk to.

Wells wants the center to help the most vulnerable patients, especially in communities of color and rural areas, who often face additional barriers to abortion.

Planned Parenthood joins several groups that help organize abortions in the post-ro Midwest.

The High Access Program, launched this spring, has about 800 volunteer pilots flying patients across state lines in private jets. In June, the first flight brought a woman from Oklahoma to a clinic in Kansas City.

In Colorado, abortion telehealth provider JustThePill, which mail-order abortion pills in Minnesota, Montana, and Wyoming, recently opened a new mobile clinic from a van.

For security reasons, medical director Julie Amahan did not say where the state clinic is located or what it looks like.

“They are very inexplicable. They don't have a logo. They look like any other big van on the road - objectively, he said, you can't say from the outside, "It's like a mobile clinic."

If you live in a state like Kansas that bans abortion pills, not telemedicine, you can cross the state line to Colorado, talk to the doctor from the car, and then grab the abortion pills from the safe in the parking lot. , behind the car. van

“We can be very flexible and change depending on where patients need us most,” Amaon said.

JustThePill is raising money to open a mobile clinic in Illinois later this year. Amaon later said that the group filmed in Kansas.

But the trip to the abortion is worth it.

The cost of an abortion can range from a few hundred dollars for a medical abortion to several thousand dollars for a surgical procedure. In Kansas, laws that prevent public and private health insurance from covering most abortions force most people to pay out of pocket. And that's not counting things like flights, hotels, and child care.

Sandy Brown, president of the Kansas Abortion Foundation, said the number of calls for help has increased this year.

“There are so many people coming to Kansas to have an abortion that the waiting time can be two to three weeks, which increases the cost of the procedure,” she said.

A few weeks make the difference between an abortion pill or a surgical abortion. Or it could mean the difference between a simple one-day procedure and something more complex, a two-day procedure and the extra cost is more expensive.

Due to the overcrowding of local clinics, more Kansas women travel out of state. That's why the foundation recently partnered with the Midwest Access Coalition, an Illinois-based group that helps people pay for and coordinate abortion-related travel.

“We will take care of all bookings, transport, accommodation. We send money to people for food, childcare, medicines,” says Alison Dreth, director of the strategic partnerships group. credit cards. "

“Someone from Arkansas went to Chicago last week; Its practical stand costs $2,500. And some people only need $25 to get a friend to pay for gas to drive them.”

Abortion rights advocates say the support is especially important for women of color, who are nearly three times more likely to die from childbirth complications than white women nationwide.

“We know from experience that if someone has an unplanned pregnancy and wants an abortion, there are financial barriers for people of color,” said Sapphire Garcia-Liz, founder of Kansas Birth Justice, a nonprofit organization that wants to get involved. .table. Differences in fertility between black and brown communities.

“Black and black women should have access to a choice, not only because they are more likely to die in childbirth, but also because it is a human right. And this is a human right to which we had less and less access.”

Rose Conlon reports on health for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. You can also tweet her @rosebconlon or conlon@kmuw.org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration between KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW, and High Plains Public Radio on health, social determinants of health, and their relationship to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photographs may be published free of charge by news organizations with attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Copyright 2022 KMUW NPR for Wichita. Learn more about KMUW Visit NPR for Wichita.

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