*The city of Fairview Heights in southwestern Illinois has drawn national attention for the stealthily built Planned Parenthood Clinic that will open there later this month.
The 18,000-square-foot clinic will dwarf another one that Planned Parenthood already operates in Fairview Heights, about a dozen miles from downtown St. Louis. That site only provides medication abortions and other medical treatments.
Dr. Colleen McNicholas is the Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis and Southwestern Missouri region, which will run the clinic. She says the opening of the clinic wasn’t announced until last week for fear that anti-abortion workers would sabotage the $7 million project.
But Andrew Bath, executive vice president of the Thomas More Society, an anti-abortion group, said Planned Parenthood had to launch what he called “a sneak attack because they're not welcome there.” The project, he said is “gruesome and awful.”
The Thomas More Society has a history of suing large-scale Planned Parenthood clinics such as the 22,000-square-foot facility that opened in 2007 in Aurora, in northern Illinois. He said the group is again considering legal action.
Anti-abortion activists are also using the law to try to close Missouri’s lone abortion clinic, which is in St. Louis.
McNicholas said the addition of the clinic is important to the region because many states, including Missouri, have adopted tight abortion restrictions.
“These are all states that have been working to further restrict abortion. And so Illinois really has been and will become a haven for people who need access to comprehensive reproductive health care,’’ McNicholas said
Bath sees what’s happening from a much different perspective.
“Now that they're planting these mega clinics, just outside the border of pro- life states, they're turning the state of Illinois into an abortion-tourism destination state, which we think is abhorrent,” he said.
McNicholas said women need access to safe abortion and that the new clinic will offer a wide-range of health services, such as cancer screening, vaccinations and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.
* Clarification: NPR Illinois changed this headline to reflect NPR standards, which state that the words "abortion" and "clinic" should not be put together because "clinics provide other procedures and not just abortion."