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Sioux City Planned Parenthood clinic adjusts to meet out-of-state patient needs

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux City
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
The Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux City is seeing an increase of patients from states where abortion is banned.

The Sioux City Planned Parenthood is seeing an increase in patients from states where abortion has been banned. But, the clinic is being careful in how it handles abortions for patients from these states to avoid any risk of legal action.

All patients from states with abortion bans have to complete medication abortions on-site. Medication abortions typically consists of a combination of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. Usually, a patient would take both drugs orally – waiting at least a day between doses. Then, the second pill could be taken at home.

But, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood North Central States, Dr. Sarah Traxler, said the clinic wants avoid any patients taking abortion medication back home to states where it’s restricted.

So, the western Iowa site is opting to administer the second dose of medication vaginally to those patients – which can be done immediately after the first dose. That way, patients are able to complete their abortion in just one visit.

“Because none of us want to be placed in a position where we are charged with a felony, losing our medical license, because then we can't take care of anyone,” Traxler said. “It's not just one patient or patients from South Dakota, it's literally everyone we take care of in all of the states in all places where we provide care.”

“I think that that we're going to see detrimental effects to very specific populations of people as we go through time and see this decision really play out in these areas where abortion is banned.”
Dr. Sarah Traxler, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood North Central states

The clinic has especially seen an increase of patients from South Dakota, which borders Sioux City and where a trigger law banned most abortions after the reversal of Roe v. Wade. The state’s governor, Kristi Noem, stated last month that doctors who perform abortions will be targeted for prosecution.

While the clinic has a history of serving South Dakotans seeking abortions, Traxler said clinic managers have observed those numbers surge. In the last month, the clinic has also treated more patients from Missouri, where most abortions are banned, and Kansas and Nebraska, where abortion remains legal.

As more states pass abortion restrictions, the Sioux City clinic is poised to become a critical point of access for Midwestern states, Traxler said.

“So places like Sioux City that are situated in tri state areas, not very far from rural areas, they’re going to play a really key role in expanding access for people across our region,” she said.

Since the Dobbs decision, the Sioux City clinic has had a 100 percent attendance rate – meaning every person who scheduled an appointment showed up. Traxler said that’s rare for abortion clinics.

Traxler attributes part of the increase in patients from Nebraska to the retirement of one of the state’s primary providers. As a result, some of Nebraska’s Planned Parenthood clinics have become less accessible.

On the other hand, the Sioux City clinic has expanded its hours. The clinic is now open two days a week – rather than just on Wednesdays. Traxler said the change was to ensure the clinic can follow Iowa's new law requiring patients seeking an abortion to make two appointments, at least 24 hours apart.

Abortion remains legal in Iowa for up to 20 weeks in pregnancy. But, Gov. Kim Reynolds has stated that she would ask the courts to reverse a 2019 ruling that struck down a law banning abortion after the detection of fetal cardiac activity, or around 6 weeks into pregnancy.

If that happens, Traxler said Minnesota and Illinois would likely become hubs for abortion access. She said she fears what that would mean for low-income people and people of color in states with bans.

“It's life saving health care for a lot of people,” Traxler said. “I think that that we're going to see detrimental effects to very specific populations of people as we go through time and see this decision really play out in these areas where abortion is banned.”

Kendall is Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA.