Planned Parenthood has announced that it is opening a new facility in Fairview Heights, Ill., that will offer surgical and medication abortions.
The 18,000 square-foot facility, located on Salem Place near the intersection of Interstate 64 and Illinois 159, is anticipated to be open by mid-October, according to an Oct. 2 news release from Planned Parenthood. The building will replace the organization’s current center in Fairview Heights. The Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, which also provides abortions, is about 15 miles away from the new Planned Parenthood clinic.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson tweeted Oct. 8 that he was troubled to hear the news about the new facility. “The true ownership and nature of this facility was kept secret while under construction, a practice which not only undermines ethical and moral business practices, but also further promotes the objectification and monetization of the most innocent human lives,” he tweeted. “Let us not be discouraged by this news, but emboldened to pray and work together across state lines as we fight for changes in legislation and culture that will uphold the dignity of every human person.”
Planned Parenthood officials said that it will continue to perform abortions at its facility in St. Louis on Forest Park Avenue. Earlier this year, the Missouri legislature passed a sweeping measure (HB 126, also known as the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act”) that includes numerous pro-life provisions that protect the lives of the unborn and the health and safety of mothers. Several provisions of the law currently are being challenged in the courts. Additionally, the clinic was granted a preliminary injunction, allowing it to continue to perform abortions as the fate of its abortion facility license is still being decided.
“Our expansion in Ilinois should not be interpreted in any way as a shift from our commitment to continue the fight in Missouri,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical director of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.
Leaders of several pro-life organizations said they weren’t surprised by the announcement, but their reactions were varied.
Deacon Sam Lee, a pro-life lobbyist with Campaign Life Missouri, said he hopes to see pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes based in St. Louis expanding to the Metro East. He said that can be a challenge since Illinois doesn’t have many of the same pro-life benefits as Missouri, such as pro-life legislation and a recently expanded tax credit program for pregnancy resource centers.
Deacon Lee also noted the importance of continuing to help women to choose life for their unborn babies. Even if the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis closed, that only makes Missouri “abortion clinic free,” he said. Women are still traveling out of state to obtain abortions.
“About half of all Missouri women, for a number of years, have already been getting them out of state, with the highest number going to Kansas and then to Illinois,” he said. “We all want to see abortion clinics close, but more importantly we want to help women to never even consider abortion in the first place. It is harder to get women to not consider abortions than it is to close clinics.”
The goal of upholding the sanctity of all human life transcends state borders, said Cynthia Haehnel, director of the archdiocesan Office of Respect Life, Family and Social Responsibility. She said she sees the new clinic as a new opportunity to engage others on the issue of abortion. “Whether peaceful witness or rallying together against this, we’re all affected,” she said. “This gives us an opportunity to provide a witness for the sanctity of human life. We’re all affected in the same way, no matter what side of the river we live on.”
Reagan Barklage, Students for Life Western Regional Director, said she was “extremely disappointed, but not surprised” about the Fairview Heights clinic. Barklage and Students for Life of America organized a rally Oct. 9 outside the new clinic.
Barklage said it’s important to expose the news about the new clinic and show others that “the abortion industry is not for women. We’re encouraging people to make that extra 15-minute drive; we need to divide our efforts.”
Brian Westbrook of Coalition for Life St. Louis said he, too, wasn’t surprised about the new clinic. “I see this as a victory for the pro-life movement,” he said. If Missouri becomes free of abortion facilities, he added, “that emboldens every single other state, lawmaker, and pro-life person. This is a tipping point for the pro-life movement.”