CJ visits Illinois abortion clinic; Bristol clinic closer to much of Ky.
Supporters post signs at the Tennessee Clinic, above, and the new Virginia clinic. (Photo by Sam Whitehead, Kaiser Health News)
With almost all abortions illegal in Kentucky, at least for the time being, and largely unavailable in most other bordering states, Sarah Ladd of The Courier Journal went to the abortion clinic in Granite City, Ill., to describe how it has become a medical magnet for women from 19 states.
“On the day Roe v. Wade fell, hundreds of people called the Hope Clinic,” Ladd reports. “Front-desk employees of the Granite City abortion clinic usually field no more than 200 calls a day. But when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal right to abortion on that day in June, more than 600 people called the office seeking help. For many in the surrounding region, the Land of Lincoln suddenly became the only place to legally access abortion, following a series of state “trigger” laws banning or severely limiting the procedure.”
But Granite City isn’t the only abortion magnet within a few hours’ drive of most Kentuckians. Sam Whitehead of Kaiser Health News reports that a doctor at Bristol Regional Women’s Center in Bristol, Tenn., got an out-of-state abortion provider to open Bristol Women’s Health a mile away in Bristol, Va., because of the change in the law. Tennessee’s ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy takes effect Aug. 25.
Bristol, Va., is closer than Granite City to the geographic center of Kentucky, Lebanon; and to the state’s center of population, which is near Willisburg, 20 miles north-northeast of Lebanon. According to Google Maps, they’re 4 hours and 40 minutes and 4:45 from Bristol, respectively.
A Memphis-based abortion provider is planning to open a clinic this month in Carbondale, Ill., which is three and a half hours from Louisville, about 20 minutes less drive time than Granite City. When the clinic opens, Lebanon will be about the same distance from it as from the Bristol clinic.
Bristol is two hours from Middlesboro, on Kentucky’s southeastern corner; 2:10 from Pikeville; three hours from Corbin; and 3:40 from Somerset.
The owner of the Bristol clinic is Diane Derzis, who owned the Mississippi clinic that lost the Supreme Court case, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “Derzis said a doctor at the Bristol Regional Women’s Center reached out to her with the idea for the Virginia clinic,” Whitehead reports.
“Derzis said the Tennessee and Virginia clinics are separate, distinct operations. . . . She said she’s working to offer abortions to people across the Southeast who have lost access as states restrict the procedure. She opened Las Cruces Women’s Health Organization in southern New Mexico in late July after closing her clinic more than 1,000 miles away in Jackson.”
Like almost any abortion clinic, the one in Bristol has already drawn protesters. “On a recent weekday morning, a handful stood on the sidewalks around the clinic holding large anti-abortion signs,” Whitehead reports. “On the clinic property, a group of volunteers who call themselves the Pink Defenders had put up pro-abortion rights signs and hung large sheets in various shades of pink and purple around the clinic parking lot.”
In Granite City, longtime anti-abortion protesters Daniel and Angela Michael drive from 40 minutes away “several times a week in a purple RV that advertises ‘Mobile Medical Unit’ and ‘Real Hope … Real Help’,” Ladd reports. “They run an organization called Small Victories, which provides things such as ultrasounds, formula and diapers to people.
The Michaels “criticized protesters who name-call and berate patients headed into the clinic as hypocritical,” Ladd writes: “They always scream and yell at people and talk them out of abortion, but they won’t help them after that,” Daniel said, his voice breaking as he spoke.
“Both he and Angela feel like a lot of crisis pregnancy organizations make it too difficult for people to get assistance, such as requiring classes in exchange for supplies.” The Michaels “estimate they’ve turned more than 6,000 potential patients away from the clinic. Two of the couple’s 13 children were adopted from people who had initially come to the clinic for abortions, Daniel said. . . . The couple raises about $100,000 annually and uses the money to drive to the clinic, as well as provide supplies for mothers through the first year after birth, Daniel said.”