Having bodily autonomy seems to me to be at the very crux of democracy. But, when the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade was overturned last June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a chunk of democracy broke off, leaving Americans living in Republican-governed states stranded and scrambling for health care that should be easily accessible to everyone.
A Planned Parenthood clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, was set to open just days before Roe fell, the Kansas City Star reports. The new clinic was built to serve the working class and medically underserved in the local community by giving folks a place to go for their reproductive health that was close to where they lived. Then all hell broke loose.
The clinic was overwhelmed with patients from Kansas, as well as nearby Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana—states where a legal and safe abortion had overnight become a thing of the past.
According to the Kansas City Star, the clinic is barely able to keep up and can only take 10% to 15% of patients who need abortions, even after flying in doctors and hiring more staff.
RELATED STORY: Indiana’s attorney general investigating doctor who provided an abortion to 10-year-old rape victim
Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, says, "The ecosystem, it’s not even fragile. It’s broken… I think there’s a perception that if you are seeking care, you can find it somewhere. And that’s not true.”
Haley Ruark, of Platte City, Missouri, was able to get an appointment at the Kansas City clinic after a two-week wait. She has two small children and works 12-hour shifts as a patient care technician. Having a third child was not an option for her.
“It was just idiotic for a law to be put in place that you can’t do what you feel is necessary for your body and not even your body, but your mental health also,” Ruark said.
But Kansas isn’t the only state where reproductive health providers are being inundated with out-of-state patients. According to the Denver Post, abortions in Colorado were up 33% between April and August. Additionally, North Carolina saw a 37% increase, and Illinois was up 28%, according to a new Society of Family Planning report.
The report further adds that the “estimated number of abortions provided by a clinician in states that banned or severely restricted abortion (such as a 6-week ban) decreased from 8,500 abortions in April before the [Dobbs] decision to 460 abortions in August 2022.”
Dr. Kristina Tocce of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains says clinics in the region saw an 18% increase in abortion services, with 38% of patients from out-of-state versus 11% before Roe fell.
“Part of my medical practice now is knowing patients’ travel itineraries, so I can stick to flight times,” Tocce told the Denver Post, adding that some patients are forced to fly in and out on the same day.
The idea of having to flee your home state to receive medical care is a terrifying concept. The case of the 10-year-old rape survivor who was forced to leave her home in Ohio and travel to Indianapolis, Indiana, to seek an abortion immediately comes to mind.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard was the doctor who provided service to the child. Now, Bernard is suing Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, claiming "baseless" complaints and "overbroad" investigations into doctors who provide this care, and even issuing subpoenas into patient records, CBS News reports.
"The attorney general's and director's improper conduct dissuades patients who need emergency abortions from seeking care," the suit adds. "It also threatens patients seeking legal abortions that their most personal and private medical records and health care decisions could be exposed as part of a meritless investigation."
In late July, Rokita began a crusade to stop Bernard from providing abortion care. His attorney sent a notice of inquiry to Bernard, according to CNN. And has said he would be investigating Bernard for “potential failure to report the abortion and child abuse.”
After the story became public, the GOP immediately began claiming the story wasn’t true. However, there was no reason to deny the veracity of this story: A Columbus, Ohio, man was charged with the little girl’s rape. Gershon Fuentes, 27, confessed and turned himself in to authorities, and even admitted to raping the child on two other occasions.
But the facts haven’t seemed to matter, and Rokita has set the dogs on Bernard.
"It's honestly been very hard for me, for my family," Bernard told NPR. "It's hard to understand why a political figure, a prominent figure in the state, would want to come after physicians who are helping patients every single day in their state."
When asked if she’d felt threatened, Bernard told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell plainly: “Yes.”
“It shows how you know, abortion, instead of being part of health care, which it is, a needed, lifesaving procedure, what it is, has been used to create a wedge between people politically and personally. And it shows how far we have come and how sad that is.”