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Metro East Planned Parenthood extends hours after surge in out-of-state abortion patients

The Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri’s clinic entrance
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Fairview Heights clinic run by Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri is one of two places a person can receive abortion care in the Metro East.

Planned Parenthood’s Metro East clinic is expanding its hours to meet a surge in patients from other states that have banned abortions.

The clinic is adding 10 hours throughout the week to meet the increase in patients coming to southern Illinois from Kentucky, Louisiana and other states that banned abortions since the Supreme Court overturnedRoe v. Wade

It will be open two hours later on Monday through Friday, starting Tuesday.

Wait times have increased from less than a week to two to three weeks, and the clinic is double- and triple-booking patients to meet the demand, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

“After the decision dropped, and we saw state after state start to further restrict abortion access, our wait times went from pre-decision being two to three days to now post-decision being 2½ to three weeks,” McNicholas said.

Patients are also coming later in their pregnancy, she said.

“The proportion of folks who we are seeing beyond 14 weeks has increased by almost 80%,” McNicholas said. “And we will continue to see that as wait times get longer and as the availability of services is further and further restricted.”

The clinic has been hiring more clinicians, security workers and other staff to work the extra hours, said LaQuetta Cooper, the organization’s director of health operations.

If a patient is later in pregnancy, the clinic will rush to get them in as fast as possible, Cooper said.

“We have some patients that just arrived at the health centers without appointments, thinking they can just walk in,” she said. “We do have patients that call to get appointments, maybe the next day, and that are further in gestational age. … We try to get them in within that week, if not the next day of them calling.”

Cooper said the clinic will likely need to move to 12-hour days in the future to absorb the number of patients coming to the clinic.

Follow Sarah on Twitter:@petit_smudge

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.