From left, Brittany Bester and Natalee Clemons work the phones in the call center at Planned Parenthood in Fairview Heights, Illinois.

An Illinois 'oasis' opens a window onto America in a post-Roe v. Wade era

Updated 5:05 AM ET, Sun May 15, 2022

Fairview Heights, Illinois (CNN)On a winding road just off Interstate 64 in southern Illinois, past a Holiday Inn, an antiques mall and a TGI Fridays, the squat brick Planned Parenthood clinic is a window onto a post-Roe v. Wade America.

The clinic's call center -- less than 20 miles from Missouri's lone abortion provider -- has been abuzz since a draft opinion leaked earlier this month suggested that the US Supreme Court could soon strike down the landmark 1973 decision guaranteeing a constitutional right to abortion.
"Patients immediately were calling, wondering, 'What does this mean? Can I still come to my appointment tomorrow? Is abortion still legal?' " said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Planned Parenthood's chief medical officer for the region, which includes the clinic in Fairview Heights and one just across the Mississippi River in St. Louis.
"There's lots of confusion around what does this mean today and what does it mean in the coming days and weeks."
Already, more than 75% of the Illinois clinic's patients come from throughout the Midwest and South, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, said during a visit to the 18,000-square-foot health center on Wednesday. Thousands more are expected to travel for hours from places like Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and Kentucky if Roe is struck down.
"Illinois is going to be ground zero," said David S. Cohen, a professor at Drexel University's Thomas R. Kline School of Law in Philadelphia. "Illinois is just closer to more people who are going to be in states where abortion is going to be banned."

An island in 'abortion access desert'

The Fairview Heights clinic -- and a partner facility in nearby Granite City, Illinois -- expect the number of abortion patients in southern Illinois to double to about 14,000 per year if Roe falls.