Abortion clinics across the US are scrambling to keep up with an influx of patients as a growing number of states move to ban the procedure.
In states where abortion is legal, clinics say they are flooded with inquiries from desperate out-of-state callers seeking abortion services. Many are rushing to accommodate women traveling from states where restrictive abortions laws are already in place. The number of patients requesting prescriptions for abortion pills has also surged in unprecedented numbers.
Cindy Adam, CEO of Choix, a telehealth clinic that provides medication abortion care, said in a statement to China Daily that the company's website traffic has jumped 600 percent since the Supreme Court ended the constitutional protection for abortion on June 24.
"We anticipate a growing number of inquiries from patients as we expand and information about telehealth becomes more readily available, especially as it relates to abortion and reproductive care," Adam said.
The company currently operates in California, Colorado, Illinois and New Mexico, where abortions remain legal. To support patients and meet the growing demand, Choix aims to expand its services to every state by the end of 2023, she said.
"The overturn of Roe and the nature of the restrictive laws already being put into place are designed to make abortion providers and people afraid to provide and seek care. We consider these laws to be overreaching to say the least. There is a clear bias and trend towards applying laws differently in the case of abortion care, which is a concern for all providers offering abortion care," Adam said.
Twenty-six states were certain or likely to ban abortion if the Supreme Court had overturned Roe vs Wade, according to an analysis by Guttmacher Institute. Of those states, 13 have "trigger laws'' that would kick into effect either immediately or after a 30-day waiting period.
In Illinois, a state that protects access to abortion, providers are struggling to deal with an overflow of patients, as Illinois' neighboring states banned abortions, and clinics in those states stopped providing abortions to patients.
"People are calling who have appointments with us and want to know if abortion is still legal, people are calling from surrounding Midwest states to see if they can come to us because their appointments have been canceled and people are calling from states further away that we usually don't hear from," Dr Allison Cowett, the medical director of Family Planning Associates, a Chicago-based provider, told The New York Times.
Four of Illinois' surrounding states immediately banned abortion after the Supreme Court decision overturned Roe vs Wade, which had established a constitutional right to an abortion. Two others, Tennessee and Ohio, prohibit the procedure after six weeks into a pregnancy. Legislators in Indiana and Iowa are expected to discuss abortion bans in the upcoming months.
Many clinics in Illinois had been preparing before the Supreme Court decision was announced, but even with the increased staffing and extended operation hours, it was hardly enough to meet the soaring demand, the Times reported.
"We've been preparing for months, but to have it actually be reality, you're never prepared for that," Cowett said. California, where lawmakers have vowed to make the state a "sanctuary" for women seeking abortions, clinics are looking at different options to accommodate an influx of out-of-state patients.
FPA Women's Health, a California-based healthcare practice offering in-person and telehealth abortion, noted in a statement to China Daily that it is "expanding capacity in our 25 offices across California and via Telehealth".
"We have streamlined access in our 11 surgical clinics to accommodate patients who choose to fly into California for care and fly home immediately. To preserve surgical access for our patients seeking care from hostile states, we are also relying on changes to regulatory policies like the elimination of the REMS rule that allow us to safely and effectively use our innovative abortion by mail program for clinically eligible California patients," the statement added.
A study conducted by the University of California in Los Angeles this month estimated that between 8,000 and 16,000 people will travel to California each year for abortions if Roe was overturned.
All types of people will travel to the state for abortion services, but those with greater resources are more likely to travel to obtain the procedure, including white, college-educated people with more economic and social resources, the study found.