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Planned Parenthood of Flossmoor sees increase in abortion patients, protesters and clinic escorts

Planned Parenthood in Flossmoor has seen an increase in of out-of-state patients seeking abortions since Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, was overturned on June 24.

Previously, Flossmoor Planned Parenthood had “around 6% of its patients traveling from another state,” said Chanelle Brown, who is with the communications team at Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “After Roe fell, that number jumped to almost 19% of Flossmoor patients from another state.” 

Brown said the number of clinic escorts and protests also have increased.

All Planned Parenthood locations in Illinois have seen an increase in out-of-state abortion patients, she said.

“Patients are offered the option of taking the first available appointment or the closest site geographically,” Brown said.

“Typically, Planned Parenthood of Illinois schedules around 100 out-of-state patients for an abortion each month. And in the first week that Roe fell, we scheduled nearly 750 out-of-state abortion patients,” said Mary Jane Maharry, publicist and senior marketing manager for Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Maharry said Planned Parenthood has been preparing for an end to Roe v. Wade since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. Planned Parenthood opened its location in Flossmoor in 2018 because it was close to Indiana. The organization was preparing for an influx of out-of-state patients, Maharry said.

To prepare for the influx, among other preparations, Planned Parenthood of Illinois started providing medication abortion by mail to eligible patients with an Illinois residency, Maharry said. This freed up the availability of services inside the clinics. Abortion pills are mailed after a “rigorous screening process” and a visit through Telehealth, a virtual, HIPPA-complaint method of medical consultation, Maharry said. 

“Medication abortion is an extremely safe way of ending an early pregnancy,” Maharry said, adding that it’s only available up to the first 11 weeks of pregnancy.

“Building progressive, pro-choice power in the South Suburbs is something that Planned Parenthood has really been focusing on in Illinois, especially as we move into this election season,” said Adelaide Zwick, program manager at Planned Parenthood Action Illinois.

The day Roe v. Wade was overturned, Zwick organized a protest in downtown Homewood that she said 75 people attended.

“I hope to host more similar events like this in the future,” Zwick said. “Folks from the South Suburbs seem really fired up about this issue and really eager to get involved. When I hosted that protest in Homewood, I got tons of volunteer signups.”

Anti-abortion demonstrators can be seen frequently on the grass along Governors Highway adjacent to Flossmoor Planned Parenthood’s parking lot.

Since the reversal of Roe v. Wade, Brown said “the Flossmoor Health Center has experienced an increase in protester activity.” The number of clinic escorts who safely walk patients from their car to the inside of the building also has increased, Brown said.

“All of our escorts are volunteers,” Brown said. “After Roe fell, the organization experienced a tremendous increase in people volunteering at all levels of the organization. We do have patient escorts at the Flossmoor Health Center location and are conducting virtual and in-person trainings for additional volunteers.”

In June, before Roe v. Wade was overturned, John Ryan, an anti-abortion protester with Coalition Life, spoke to the Chronicle

Ryan said protesters try to divert patients seeking abortions away from Planned Parenthood and towards Aid for Women, the anti-abortion health clinic next door. He described himself and his fellow protesters as “the last line of defense to let people know that there’s something else available to them,” and said Coalition Life would “ramp up” protests in front of Illinois abortion providers if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Harris Grabarczyk said this week they’ve gone to Flossmoor Planned Parenthood “a handful of times” for gender affirming care. Grabarczyk said anti-abortion protesters yelled at them while waiting to be buzzed inside the locked doors of the clinic, saying “You don’t have to do this,” assuming they were at Planned Parenthood for an abortion.

“You don’t see Amazon employees standing outside of Walmart saying, ‘You don’t have to do this, buy from Amazon.’ If they want to market their services, there are definitely better ways to do it,” Grabarczyk said, referring to protesters attempting to divert patients towards Aid for Women. “It made me feel uncomfortable. I can’t imagine how the people who are in distress and in need must feel.”

The Chronicle reached out to a group of protesters in front of the Flossmoor Planned Parenthood on Tuesday afternoon. The protesters declined to answer any questions.

“Life is precious. That’s what I’ll say,” said an anti-abortion protester who didn’t provide his name. 

Aid For Women was unavailable for comment after multiple attempts by the Chronicle to reach a spokesperson.

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