New actions targeted to lower barriers of access to reproductive care
CHICAGO—Governor JB Pritzker today joined state leaders, healthcare providers, and advocates to announce several initiatives and programs targeted to lower barriers of access to reproductive care for families. These programs focus on navigating systems, reducing costs for patients, and supporting healthcare facilities, building on years of investment in and prioritization of reproductive care in the public health system.
"Unlike some other states, in the fourteen months since the Supreme Court made the archaic and destructive decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, Illinois has doubled down on our commitment to protect and expand reproductive rights for patients and providers alike," said Governor JB Pritzker. "This most recent batch of nation-leading policy expands access even further—because in the Land of Lincoln, we will not go backwards.
Illinois will remain a safe haven for women — and I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure widespread, equitable access to reproductive rights."
"Illinois continues to lead in the fight to protect women and anyone seeking reproductive care. While others attempt to roll back rights and restrict bodily autonomy, our state is forging ahead to build the groundwork for comprehensive, accessible reproductive healthcare," said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. "By addressing barriers to seeking an abortion and supporting providers who meet patients' needs, these cross-agency initiatives demonstrate what it means to stand on the right side of history in the fight for reproductive justice."
The initiatives announced today include:
Partnership between IHFS, IDPH, UIC, RUSH, and the Chicago Abortion Fund to create a hospital navigation program: CARLA (Complex Abortion Regional Line for Access), launching in August, is designed to give appropriate and expeditious treatment to patients who present for abortions at clinics who need a higher level of care than can be provided at the clinics. The nurse-staffed and specially trained hotline will aid patients with complex medical needs in scheduling appointments within hospital systems, acquiring required pre-operative testing, and arranging payment, transportation, and childcare for treatment.
Request for Proposals for a public facing hotline for abortion service navigation: IDPH received $10 million for this program in the FY2024 budget. The Reproductive Health Public Navigation Hotline will aid patients, including those travelling from out of state, in finding and navigating care. Illinois has seen a massive influx in patients travelling from out of state as other states in the region and beyond have passed increasingly restrictive anti-choice legislation, necessitating increased support for those navigating these systems.
Creation of a Family Planning Program for Medicaid: The program provides comprehensive coverage for family planning services for people otherwise not eligible for Medicaid based on income threshold. This plan raises the income eligibility above threshold for the regular Medicaid program and includes services such as an annual preventive exam, family planning counseling, all Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved methods of contraception, permanent methods of birth control (tubal ligation or vasectomy), and basic infertility counseling. Additional examples of services include cervical cancer screening and treatment, screening mammograms, breast cancer gene (BRCA) genetic counseling and testing as applicable, vaccines that support reproductive health, abortion care, and transportation for family planning visits. By leveraging federal Medicaid funds in addition to the Title X grant dollars, Illinois is making family planning services more affordable and accessible for residents across the state.
Capital Grant Program: The first-of-its-kind Illinois Reproductive Health Facilities Capital Grant Program will be administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and provides $5 million in capital funding through Rebuild Illinois to support reproductive health care providers in Illinois that are experiencing increased demand for their services. The capital grants fund improvements and repairs, new construction, security upgrades, and equipment to increase capacity and enhance safety, which includes the purchase of vehicles for mobile care units.
Authorization of reproductive health reimbursement for state employees who work out of state: Approximately 1,600 female state employees or dependents live out-of-state, including some in states where access to reproductive healthcare has been seriously restricted. The Travel Reimbursement Program, modeled after an existing state program for organ donation and adoption, will cover transportation and lodging for state employees who must travel to access safe and sufficient reproductive healthcare.
Governor Pritzker has made reproductive rights access a cornerstone of his administration, particularly since the overturning of Roe v. Wade just over a year ago. Illinois has expanded requirements for insurers to cover birth control and abortion services, including advance prescriptions of medicine for medication abortion. The Governor also expanded access to over-the-counter birth control and passed legislation protecting healthcare providers from legal action for treating patients from out of state.
"As attorney general, I have made it a priority to advocate in the legislature and fight in the courtroom to protect access to reproductive healthcare in Illinois," said Attorney General Kwame Raoul. "Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, Illinois providers and support networks have stepped up to serve an influx of patients from other states. I commend the governor for putting these cross-agency initiatives in place to support patients and providers and to help ensure that Illinois remains a proud reproductive health care oasis."
"As abortion providers in Chicago, we have experienced an unprecedented surge of patients traveling to Illinois from out of state for abortion care since the fall of Roe in 2022," said Dr. Allison Cowett, Family Planning Associates. "We recognize what a privilege it is to live and work in Illinois where our elected officials stand up for reproductive freedom. Because of the steadfast emphasis on access to care, we have been able to meet the needs of many individuals who may have otherwise fallen through the cracks. Our work would not be possible without the support of Governor's office." -
"Once again, our elected leaders in Illinois are working to combat multiple public health crises — from health care provider shortages and rising STI rates to worsening Black maternal mortality rates, abortion bans across the south and Midwest, and more," said Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. "These crises will only worsen if more states don't swiftly enact policies to support patients including those being forced to flee their home states for care, like the more than 8,000 patients who traveled to our health center in Fairview Heights, Illinois in the past year. I'm grateful to the Pritzker administration for creating patient-centered solutions that support the patient-provider relationship."
"Illinois is a haven for sexual and reproductive health in the Midwest, and our clinical partners have seen their patient volume increase greatly since the overturn of Roe. These new initiatives will further help fill the gaps in sexual and reproductive health for underserved communities in Illinois," said Melissa Banerjee, Deputy Director of Midwest Access Project
"CARLA was developed in partnership with IDPH, ILDFS, UIC, Rush, and CAF in response to the challenges faced by abortion seekers with complex medical needs, especially for those who present at free standing clinics after traveling from states that ban or restrict abortion care," said Megan Jeyifo, Chicago Abortion Fund Executive Director. "Imagine taking off from work, securing childcare, getting on a plane (or two) and arriving at a clinic in an unknown city and being told by clinicians inside the clinic that they cannot offer you the care you moved mountains to get to because of high blood pressure, or anemia, or c-section scarring. This is sadly, a very common post-Dobbs story, and one CAF case managers and Illinois clinic staff and hospital providers are all too familiar with. How can we make the process of getting care at a hospital easier? How can we get people in as quickly as possible? How can we make sure that doctors have the records they need and that flights can be rebooked and rides secured and that patients know there are resources to financially support them? The work we have done together - clinics, hospitals, abortion funds - over the last year to get people to care, pay for it and logistically support hundreds of people laid the foundation for CARLA and we are thrilled with the investment the state of Illinois has made in standing up this program, once again leading the charge to advance abortion access for all."
"When a pregnant person with complex medical needs seeks abortion care, any delay can significantly increase their health risks and cause undue stress," said Dr. Jonah Fleisher, University of Illinois. "CARLA's patient navigation center is the first of its kind, supporting these patients by helping them with the logistical and medical hurdles, and making it easier for them to quickly access the hospital-based care they need."
"Because we have worked so hard in Illinois to make our state a safe haven for abortion care, we are now the largest recipient of medical refugees in the country," said Sarah Garza Resnick, CEO, Personal PAC. "Expanding our healthcare infrastructure and policies to provide every patient with the critical and compassionate care that they deserve is now our number one priority. Personal PAC is thankful to Governor Pritzker and our many providers throughout the state of Illinois and we will continue to be a partner in this work."