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JACO INTERVIEW: Reproductive Health Services CEO discusses future of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to take a Mississippi case that could overturn Roe v. Wade worries advocates of legal abortion. Among them is Planned Parenthood, whose clinic at 4251 Forest Park Avenue in St. Louis is currently the only facility in Missouri that performs such procedures.

Yamelsie Rodriguez, CEO of Reproductive Health Services at Planned Parenthood St. Louis Region, spoke with about the future of women’s health care including abortion services.

Rodriguez noted that Missouri House Bill 126 would ban abortion at any and all gestational ages.

Already, with so few abortion providers available, women have faced drives of hundreds of miles and waiting times of days to access care. The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis and the new one just across the river in Fairview Heights, Ill., have been serving women from other states as well, Rodriguez said.

If the Supreme Court decides to turn the regulation of abortion back over to the state level, and anti-abortion politicians increasingly control state offices, millions of women will look for ways to get that service, legal or not. Right now, Rodriguez said, 22 states would almost certainly ban the procedure entirely. Much of the South and Midwest fall into that category, she said.

“If Roe v. Wade is overturned, what we’re going to see is tremendous inequities around the nation” when it comes to accessing women’s reproductive health care, she said.

“Safe, legal abortion will be in jeopardy,” Rodriguez said, adding that Reproductive Health Services had been working to ensure access to safe health care for women both now and in the future. Her organization is planning ways to help women who must travel long distances, by finding funds to pay the added costs of making such a trip: not only transportation but housing, child care, meals, and so on.

The clinic in Fairview Heights may be left as one of only 11 Planned Parenthood facilities in the U.S. that could provide abortion services. Other such clinics offer a wide range of services, but not abortion.

Staff is home to The NorthSider and The SouthSider weekly community newspapers. The SouthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Tuesday. The NorthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Thursday. They are distributed at over 600 locations across St. Louis.

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