Abortion 'mega-clinic' to open in Illinois after Missouri restrictions

The exterior of the new Planned Parenthood Reproductive Clinic location is seen Oct 2 2019 in Fairview Heights Illinois Credit Michael Thomas Getty Images The exterior of the new Planned Parenthood Reproductive Clinic location is seen Oct. 2, 2019 in Fairview Heights, Illinois. | Michael Thomas/Getty Images.

Planned Parenthood announced Wednesday the opening of an 18,000 square foot, $7 million "mega" abortion clinic in southern Illinois, just a dozen miles from Missouri's last remaining Planned Parenthood clinic.

Mary Kate Knorr, Illinois Right to Life Executive Director, said Oct. 2 the facility is a "money-making venture" for Planned Parenthood in what she calls the "most abortion-friendly state in the country." Knorr has previously called Illinois the "abortion capital of the Midwest."

"Make no mistake – this new mega-facility is not a response to an increased demand, nor is it a gesture of care for women. This facility was created to fill the gaping hole they're seeing in their bottom line," Knorr said.

"The construction of this new facility was a strategic business move – certainly not a defense of women."

The abortion giant had for over a year been constructing the facility in secret in Fairview Heights, Ill., just 5 miles north of Belleville, using a shell company and leaving no public trace that the facility would become one of the nation's largest abortion clinics, CBS News reports.

Even several construction workers whom the St. Louis Post-Dispatch interviewed were unaware the building they were helping to construct, codenamed "Alaska," was an abortion clinic.

The clinic expects to begin taking patients later this month and will perform abortions up to 24 weeks.

The St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility, just across the Mississippi River, is the last clinic in Missouri currently performing abortions, though its ability to perform abortions may end soon, as its license with the state has lapsed.

Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told CBS News that abortion facilies in other areas had faced public outcry and protest during their contruction, hence their decision to build the clinic in secret.

"The truth is that our patients want easier access, and for some, the 13 mile drive from our St. Louis clinic to this Illinois clinic is an opportunity for them to get that care with less judgement, with less restriction, and with far fewer hoops to jump through," she told CBS News.

The number of women from Missouri crossing the border into Illinois for an abortion has doubled since 2017, according to data compiled by the Associated Press, which reported that the number of abortions performed in Illinois on out-of-state women doubled from 2012 to 2017 to nearly 17%.

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said the clinic will have the ability to see 11,000 patients a year.

"Let the executives of Planned Parenthood be aware that their stronghold here is temporary," Knorr continued.

"We aren't going anywhere. We will continue to fight to expose Planned Parenthood's lies, manipulations, and their deep-seated hatred for the most vulnerable members of our human race."

In June, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services refused to renew the St. Louis Planned Parenthood affiliate's license to perform abortions, citing concerns including at least three failed abortions as well as a lack of cooperation.

Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commissioner overseeing the clinic's license dispute, in July tentatively scheduled the clinic's license hearing for the last week of October.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson in May signed the "Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act," an expansive pro-life bill that bans abortions after eight weeks gestation, which drew praise from Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis. In August, however, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the new law, preventing it going into force.

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Missouri also has a "trigger law" that would ban all abortions except in cases of medical emergency if Roe v. Wade were overturned, and mandates a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.

By contrast, Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois in June signed legislation to expand vastly access to abortion in that state.

The Reproductive Rights Act ended a ban on dilation and evacuation abortion, removed regulations for abortion clinics, and ended required waiting periods to obtain an abortion. It also lifted criminal penalties for performing abortions, required all private health insurance plans to cover elective abortions, and eliminated abortion reporting requirements, as well as regulations requiring the investigation of maternal deaths due to abortion.

An Illinois state representative in September introduced legislation to prevent government employees from traveling to states which have enacted pro-life legislation, a move the Illinois state Catholic conference told CNA is "absurd."

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