Texas’ absurd and particularly cruel law banning any and all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — with no exception for rape or incest — is just the latest in the GOP’s and Evangelicial Christians’ attack on women and people who can get pregnant. This law had us thinking about options for people who need abortions here in Champaign County. We knew that options were limited, but it is surprising just how limited they are. Perhaps like some of you, we have taken for granted that we are people who occupy certain areas of privilege and live in a blue state.
This article is not an attempt to argue the constitutionality of the right to seek and receive an abortion. We are not legal scholars. We are not writing to outline the myriad reasons people need or want abortions. Here at Smile Politely, we are staunchly pro-choice. We believe that abortion and reproductive rights are healthcare, and that good healthcare is something every single person in this country deserves.
Where can you get an abortion in C-U? A Google search of “get an abortion in Champaign County” does not really offer any clear information. The most concise information about abortion services in C-U is provided by the University of Illinois’ McKinley Health Center. This PDF document called “Pregnancy: A Guide to Decision Making,” outlines various medical providers in C-U and their abortion- and pregnancy- related services. A careful read reveals that you cannot get an abortion from any major medical provider in Champaign County. If you search for abortion on Carle’s website, you’re directed to their Women’s Health Institute, which does not provide abortions. The same goes for Christie Clinic and Frances Nelson/Promise Healthcare, and perhaps it’s obvious to say that OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center, a Catholic hospital, does not offer any abortion services.
Emergency contraception (Plan B is a popular brand and is about $50) must be taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse and is widely available in Champaign County, as it is an over-the-counter drug. You can acquire Plan B from pharmacies, Target, Planned Parenthood, and Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. It is not the same thing as an “abortion pill,” or medical abortion.
For many, Planned Parenthood seems like the most obvious starting point for those seeking an abortion, and for good reason. It’s easily accessible, and the website provides clear information about services offered at each location; anyone can book an appointment online for regular health screenings.
Planned Parenthood of East Central Illinois provides medical abortions up to 11 weeks since the last known period. Medical abortions are pill-based and do not require surgical intervention. Surgical abortions are no longer available in Champaign County, after the attempted bombing of the Women’s Health Practice in 2017. The Women’s Health Practice was the last place to recieve an in-clinic abortion in Champaign, but the clinic stopped providing services after three men tried to blow up the building, and presumably anyone inside of it.
If you are more than 11 weeks from your last known period, you cannot receive an abortion in Champaign County.
This 2018 article from C-U Citizen’s Access found that abortion providers in Illinois numbered only 25, most located in Chicago. Each clinic has different cut off points for terminating the pregnancy (anything from 13 weeks to 23 weeks), adding to the stress of locating the most appropriate clinic in a timely fashion, and hoping there is an appointment available. This timeline is potentially further extended when you consider the people who learn their pregnancies are not viable, and are working with (or in many cases, waiting on) their doctors to provide necessary medical information. Adding on travel time as well as hotel and recovery accommodations, the task becomes daunting, and in many cases, insurmountable.
The closest clinic to C-U that provides both medical and in-clinic, surgical abortions is the Planned Parenthood in Springfield, at least 80 miles away.
Meanwhile, there are many more crisis pregnancy centers in an 80-mile radius. These organizations are often religiously affiliated and actively attempt to discourage women from seeking abortions. A list compiled by Heartbeat International, an anti-choice Catholic organization, shows at least two crisis pregnancy centers in C-U, and one in St. Joseph.
Crisis pregnancy centers within an 80-mile radius of Champaign. Screenshot from the Heartbeat International website.
Health clinic locations closest to Champaign-Urbana providing medical and surgical abortions. Screenshot from abortionfinder.org.
The Reproductive Health Act, passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Pritzker in 2019, protects abortion rights, requires some insurers to cover the cost, and repealed laws that criminalized providing abortions. In 2017, then-Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law HB 40, which permitted Medicaid funding to be used to cover abortions. These laws are important and necessary, but while they protect rights, without available providers and infrastructure, they don’t solve the issue of access. And the future of these laws is uncertain.
Governor Pritzker is up for reelection next year, and it’s possible that he will be challenged by IL-13 Representative Rodney Davis, a Republican who does not give one single damn about anyone needing an abortion, and has co-sponsored bills to defund Planned Parenthood and prevent any federal funding going to medical providers who perform abortions. If the Republican challenger isn’t Davis, it will be someone who adheres to the same ideology. At the state level, Representative Carol Ammons and State Senator Scott Bennett have voted to protect abortion access, but they are in the minority, at least downstate. As the Texas law and subsequent Supreme Court ruling have indicated, these rights are not guaranteed. We, as voters, must elect people who are pro-choice and will work to protect a person’s right to choose.
- ACLU’s Know Your Rights: Abortion in Illinois
- Champaign-Urbana Public Health District
- McKinley Health Center: “Pregnancy: A Guide to Decision Making”
Find an abortion provider:
The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Patrick Singer, and Mara Thacker.