All Missourians May Soon Have to Travel Out of State for a Legal Abortion

Hearings over whether Missouri's last remaining abortion clinic will continue to operate began this week.

by Harron Walker
Oct 28 2019, 8:19pm

Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images

The future of the last remaining abortion clinic in the state of Missouri remains uncertain, leading one to wonder what people will do if it, too, should disappear.

Hearings have begun to determine whether the Planned Parenthood branch in St. Louis will be able to keep its license after state health officials declined to renew it, as the Associated Press reported on Monday. If this legal battle ends with its license getting revoked, Missouri will become the first state without a licensed abortion clinic since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling in 1973.

This terrifying legal battle over reproductive rights raises many questions, for example “What the fuck??” and “Fucking why????” Also important to consider is what people in Missouri (or North Dakota, or Kentucky, or anyone who lives in any of the six states that only have one licensed abortion clinic left) will do when they want to get an abortion should the last remaining abortion clinic in their state shut down. How will they find a clinic, how will they get there, and how much will all of these additional obstacles cost?

To find a licensed abortion clinic near you, you can head over to the Safe Place Project, the National Abortion Federation’s list of affiliated providers, or any one of a number of other similar online databases. You can also call up your local Planned Parenthood and ask them about abortion services in your area. You can have an abortion at any licensed clinic; you don’t have to be a resident of the state where it’s located.

Finding a clinic is one thing; getting to a clinic is another. Should their local Planned Parenthood lose its license, residents of St. Louis would have to travel out of state, which has long been standard for Missourians anyway. In 2009, nearly half of all abortion patients in Kansas came from Missouri, per The New York Times, while a significant percentage of abortions in Illinois are performed on people from other states, as well. If the St. Louis Planned Parenthood closes, area residents would likely travel to a new Planned Parenthood clinic that just opened in Fairview Heights, Illinois, or to Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois. Fairview Heights is about 14 miles away from St. Louis by car, and Granite City is about 10 miles away from St. Louis by car. Either distance could prove prohibitive for people who can’t afford to take time off from work to make the trek. For low-income individuals, people living in abusive or otherwise precarious situations, hourly workers without paid time off, people who don’t own cars, and so many others, every added mile and every added dollar could make the journey impossible.

For many people in the United States, the shuttering of a single clinic would be disastrous. Millions of Americans live in what a 2018 study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research dubbed “abortion deserts,” meaning they have to drive 100 miles or more to reach the nearest licensed clinic, a considerable distance that means few, if any, public transportation routes, higher fuel costs by car, and likely the ability to take time off work—three needless, additional complications that no one would have to think about if licensed abortion services were accessible and affordable for all.

A previous version of this article contained inaccurate information about interstate travel from Missouri to Illinois. The article also stated that Planned Parenthood opened a new clinic in Granite City. Planned Parenthood opened a clinic in Fairview Heights; the Hope Clinic for Women has been operating in Granite City since 1974. VICE regrets the error.

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reproductive rights
Planned Parenthood