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'A game-changer': How volunteer pilots are preparing to help Missouri abortion seekers

Midwest Access Coalition is working with Elevated Access, a network of volunteer pilots ready to go the distance for patients in areas without abortion providers.

ST. LOUIS — Alison Dreith said Midwest Access Coalition, an organization providing transportation and support for abortion patients, has been planning for the end of federal abortion protections by adding new partnerships to their strategy.

"After we give ourselves that day to kind of mourn, the next day we get back to work," Dreith, the organization's director of strategic partnerships, said.

They've long booked abortion patients on commercial flights to find services, but now they have a new option in the air: private planes.

"I think it's a game-changer, and that is something that I had never considered before," she said.

Midwest Access Coalition is working with Elevated Access, a non-profit network of volunteer pilots and planes ready to go the distance for patients who live in areas without abortion providers. They recently completed their first trip: a woman requiring a 700-mile round trip.

"It was so stressful and so successful, and it made us all so happy," Dreith said of the completed trip.

A representative for Elevated Access said they had three volunteer pilots at the beginning of May. Now, they've vetted 50 volunteers with 170 pilots expressing interest in joining the ranks.

The partnership comes at a time when abortion opponents are rallying and expecting a favorable decision.

And some states like Texas have passed laws penalizing anyone who helps a patient access abortion even if it is out of state.

"That is looking more real and very scary," Dreith said of the possibility of legal trouble, adding "but also I stand by my words."

Missouri State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, a Republican from Arnold, proposed legislation this session that was similar to the Texas law though House Bill 1987 stalled out in February.

Still, Dreith said she takes comfort in knowing there are others still willing to help.

"That gives me hope when I have a lot on my mind right now," she said.

Dreith said MAC helped thirty patients when it launched in 2015. Last year, they served more than 800 people.

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