ST. LOUIS — As the so-called Heartbeat Bill inches closer to becoming law, groups on both sides of the debate are looking to what's next if it goes into effect.
The Planned Parenthood located on Forest Park Avenue in St. Louis, is the state's last remaining abortion clinic. Surgical Services Director Kawanna Shannon said the center is still performing in-clinic abortions and will continue to perform the service until it officially becomes illegal to do so.
However, even if it does, Shannon said Missouri women who are seeking abortions will still need their help.
Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region has one location in Illinois, its Fairview Heights location. That center only offers pill abortions, which must be administered within ten weeks of pregnancy.
Women who are seeking in-clinic procedures will have the option to travel to the five Planned Parenthood of Illinois centers that offer the service, but Shannon said the women will likely need financial support, transportation support and all of the other health services the clinic offers.
Shannon said the numbers don't lie when it comes to indicating the need. She said the center performs 200-250 abortion procedures each month, which doesn't cover the entire need because they send all of their clients seeking pill abortions to Illinois, where they are not required to undergo a pelvic exam.
Before Missouri started requiring pelvic exams, Shannon said the total number of abortions was nearly double. She said she expects many patients to travel to Illinois for their procedures if the bill goes into law.
Meanwhile, Coalition for Life St. Louis Director Brian Westbrook said the law would create more opportunities for pro-life groups, like the coalition, to serve pregnant women.
A clause in the bill offers more tax incentives for individuals and large corporations that donate money to pregnancy centers in Missouri. Westbrook said there are nearly 70 agencies in St. Louis that assist pregnant women and 80 pregnancy centers statewide that would benefit from the tax credit.
Westbrook said these centers walk alongside women during their pregnancy and support them through all of their options, other than abortion, for handling their pregnancies. He said they meet practical, every day needs, assist with finances and offer pre and post-pregnancy emotional and mental health services. All of those services cost money, and many of these centers are not-for-profit.
Westbrook said a greater incentive for outside groups to contribute will create more resources for pregnant women seeking their services and grow their ability to meet the needs.