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More Indiana abortion patients are already coming to Michigan

a sign that says "stop abortion now" and another that says "keep abortion legal"
Unsplash/Adobe Stock

Michigan abortion providers say they’ve already been seeing a “small increase” in patients from Indiana, even before Indiana hospitals and clinics largely stopped offering abortions this week.

“We have already been seeing more patients from Indiana than previously,” Dr. Sarah Wallett, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Michigan, said Thursday. That’s because Indiana’s near-total abortion ban, which was expected to go into effect August 1, already had a chilling effect on patients there, she said.

“What we see every time bans are talked about (in other states) is we see an increase, even a little bit more (patients coming to Michigan), even before bans go into effect,” Wallet said. “Because people get confused: is it still available? When does it become unavailable? It's difficult, even as a provider, to keep up sometimes with what is available where. I look it up regularly to try to figure out where I can refer patients, or if there's someplace closer to home that they can go.”

The Indiana ban 

Planned Parenthoodstoppedbooking new abortion appointments in Indiana last month, citing the “imminent implementation of…a law that only allows abortion services in Indiana under very limited circumstances…” The exceptions include cases involving serious risk to the health or life of a pregnant person, a lethal fetal anomaly, and rape or incest, before 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The Indiana ban was expected to officially go into effect August 1. But a last-minute legal challenge was filed by the ACLU of Indiana and others, asking the Indiana Supreme Court to “rehear a challenge to the state’s impending abortion ban and keep the law blocked while litigation continues.”

While that has temporarily stopped the ban from officially taking effect, Planned Parenthood health centers in Indiana are no longer providing abortions due to the legal uncertainty, according to WFYI.

“Our patient navigator team will help guide patients through the process of getting abortion care out of state, connecting with abortion funds and providing follow-up care when they get back home,” said Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai‘i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky (PPGNHAIK) at an August 1 press conference.

It's easier to find care in Illinois than Michigan

Most Indiana abortion patients who’ve sought care in another state have gone to Illinois, according to Alison Dreith of the Midwest Access Coalition.

“And they're not just traveling to Chicago. Hope Clinic in Granite City in Southern Illinois has also been a destination clinic for a decade….[A]t least 4 new clinics have opened on or close to the Illinois-Indiana border since the Dobbs decision, with at least one more on the way — 2 in Carbondale opened by Tennessee and Texas providers, 1 in Champaign-Urbana by an Ohio doctor, and another in Fairview Heights from a Missouri Planned Parenthood,” Dreith said via email.

But it’s not as easy to expand abortion care in Michigan as it is in Illinois, Wallett said.

While Proposal 3enshrined the right to an abortion in the Michigan Constitution, the state still has legal restrictions on abortion, including a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, limited insurance coverage, and what are known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws that putadditionalregulations on abortion providers.

“We turn away patients who don't have their (mandatory 24-hour-wait) paperwork,” Wallett said. “Many of them have traveled, sometimes from out of state. And we have to reschedule them for 24 hours from when we first saw them, because they didn't understand how to get their paperwork ready, or if it had expired, or they didn't print it out.

"We also continue to be required to follow multiple TRAP laws…which has limited our ability to expand care in all of the ways that we've heard care has been expanded in Illinois. Because it is so difficult to create new spaces to provide procedural abortion and meet all of the requirements that the state has.”

Still, Michigan is seeing a small, but noticeable, increase in Indiana patients.

“It's always hard to predict where people are going to go,” Wallet said. “It's not always just who is the closest, but where someone may have support or family, or have the ability to get the appointment most quickly. So we are anticipating that we may see more patients from Indiana, but we're not sure exactly how many.”

While Planned Parenthood of Michigan doesn’t officially track which states patients are coming from, nearly 2,000 out-of-state patients overall have come to PPMI in the year since the Dobbs decision. That’s a 3x increasein out-of-state patients, a PPMI spokesperson said in June.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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