WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Abortion-rights advocates on Tuesday called on Congress to take action following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Midwest advocates say Illinois, which is now one of the last states in the heartland to allow abortions, is facing a surge of out-of-state patients.
Dr. Colleen McNicholas, the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri chief medical officer, said the future without the protections of Roe v. Wade is grim.
“People will suffer unnecessary harm,” she said during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “Doctors must now contemplate how sick is sick enough before providing lifesaving abortion care. “
Before the historic Supreme Court ruling, McNicholas split her time between the last abortion clinic in Missouri and another just across the Mississippi River in Illinois.
“Almost overnight our Illinois clinic has seen appointments triple,” she said.
Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said her state is now a safe haven for women traveling from across the Midwest. She warned that despite her state’s best efforts, the lives of countless women, especially Black or low-income women, are in danger.
“We are not just an oasis of reproductive care but an island,” Stratton said. “It’s hard to overestimate just how devastating the outcome of this ruling is.”
Both women called on Congress to help women and doctors now living in states with restrictive abortion laws. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Democrats want to protect access by “entering a federal statuary right to an abortion.”
Republicans are vowing to fight back. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., say it should be up to the states to decide their own abortion laws.
Grassley said they are “protecting the rights of the unborn.”
“It gives to voters the decision as to what laws should be pertaining to life and pertaining to abortion,” Hawley said.
In the meantime, Durbin’s office said they’re working with the White House to find ways to help states like Illinois.
“We are working with the administration to see what can be done to provide support to states bearing the brunt of this new burden,” a spokesperson from the senator’s office said in a statement.