Central Pa. Planned Parenthood clinics see increase in out-state-patients

To accommodate the rise in demand for abortion services, Planned Parenthood Keystone is adding more days per week for abortion appointments.

Planned Parenthood (Jeff Roberson / The Associated Press)

Planned Parenthood (Jeff Roberson / The Associated Press)

This story originally appeared on WITF.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the federal constitutional right to abortion and abortion became illegal or more restricted in many states, York’s Planned Parenthood clinic tended to see one or two out-of-state patients a month, according to clinic manager Wendy Leonhart.

But after that ruling at the end of June, the clinic has seen 21 out-of-state patients.

“Since then, we’ve seen a lot of patients from Ohio. We’ve seen patients from West Virginia, from Texas, and some from Maryland as well,” Leonhart said.

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Soon after the high court’s ruling, the clinic was seeing a lot of patients from Ohio. But since a judge there temporarily blocked the state’s six-week abortion restriction, fewer Ohio patients have traveled to York, Leonhart said.

The pause on Ohio’s ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban will last until Oct. 12, the Associated Press reported.

Leonhart said they were not seeing any patients from Ohio before July.

“They are coming for these early appointments. They are driving overnight, or they are having to stay at hotels, which is expensive, so they are tired when they get here, and they are pregnant, so they are feeling sick. They are feeling nauseous, and they are asking: how much information we would be able to release and how safe they are coming to our center,” Leonhart said.

Out-of-state patients are not allowed to take abortion pills or any type of medication with them when they leave Pennsylvania.

The clinic also has seen more out-of-state patients seeking birth control services, mostly from Maryland. Six patients from out of state came to York for family planning.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Harrisburg has had 10 out-of-state patients since July. The Reading clinic has had 8.

The Abortion Fund of Ohio helps pay for transportation and lodging for patients traveling out of state. Interim executive director Maggie Scotece said the Ohio patients they are helping are having a difficult time finding appointments in western Pennsylvania.

“After the decision came down in late June,” she said, “very quickly, by the middle of August, the wait times at some of our partner clinics in western Pennsylvania were already 3 to 4 weeks out. “

Planned Parenthood Keystone serves central Pennsylvania and some parts of eastern Pennsylvania.  In 2021, its clinics provided abortions to 1,249 women between July and August, 30 of whom were from out of state. This year, they have provided 1,567 abortions over the same period of time. Fifty-three of those patients were from out of state. Planned Parenthood Keystone also said it had 81 more abortion-related visits from out-of-state between July and August.

“We really have been able to meet the demand, but we are seeing an increase, and we know that the demand is going to continue to grow,” said Melissa Reed, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Keystone.

To accommodate the rise in demand for abortion services, Planned Parenthood Keystone is adding more days per week for abortion appointments.

“We’ve been staying later, accepting more people, so we are trying to keep the access the same, but it is tough with increased patients,” Leonhart said.

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Planned Parenthood is also trying to hire more doctors in Harrisburg, York, Reading, Wilkes-Barre, Bensalem, Allentown, and Warminster. They have recruited 7 providers.

Planned Parenthood also plans to offer abortion services at its new clinic in Lancaster County at the beginning of next year.

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