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FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — Two abortion providers in the Eastern Metro Area on Friday launched a new logistics center designed to help expand access both locally and nationally.

Planned Parenthood’s Fairview Heights Clinic call center will help with travel logistics and connect patients with resources, such as money and other support organizations in all 50 states, said Yamelsie Rodríguez, president of St. Louis-area Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services.

“[It’s] a case management center that helps address the growing logistical barriers that patients face when seeking abortions,” she said. “This is a new navigation tool in response to growing demand.”

It will be operated by Planned Parenthood and the Hope Clinic for Women, located in Granite City.

Rodríguez said the idea for the center came two years ago when Planned Parenthood was preparing for additional restrictions on abortions in the St. Louis area. It was the same year that Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act, which protects the right to abortion into state law.

“We have made a collective effort to provide comprehensive services to ease the burden on patients,” she said. “We had already seen a lot of out-of-state patients coming to us from Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and others.”

This demand from outside the region only intensified after a Texas law essentially banning the procedure took effect last year, said Dr. Erin King, executive director of the Hope Clinic. .

“We saw an explosion in the number of patients who needed not only funding and logistical support, but also travel assistance,” she said. “We’ve had several years of states around us adding more and more restrictions, but the increase has been astronomical over the past four months.”

Rodríguez noted that his clinic has seen a 53% increase in out-of-state patients since the Texas law took effect.

“This law has had this ripple effect, forcing all patients, even in states where abortion is still legal and available, to travel outside of their home country to find appointments faster,” she said.

And if Roe v. Wade is canceled, Rodríguez predicts that the two clinics in the metro area will see up to 14,000 additional patients from outside the region in the first year following this decision.

Pritzker praised the new logistics center, calling it “the first of its kind” within Planned Parenthood.

“The services it provides represent an important new frontier in securing the right to abortion,” he said. “We’re incredibly proud that it’s here in Illinois. As governor, I will fight to make Illinois a haven for reproductive rights today, tomorrow, and always.

Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the Journalism Fellowship Program: Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth project.