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The 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which would have been a day of celebration for many abortion rights supporters. But today's milestone anniversary falls just short of seven months after another landmark abortion decision, the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling, issued last June, which overturned Roe. As NPR's Sarah McCammon reports, in its aftermath, many clinics have been forced to close their doors and move or stay open and dramatically shift the services they're providing.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: The CHOICES clinic in Memphis, Tenn., opened in 1974 in response to the Roe v. Wade decision a year earlier. When the Supreme Court announced it would take up the Dobbs case, president Jennifer Pepper says it was clear what was coming.
JENNIFER PEPPER: We knew immediately that that meant we would lose abortion access in Tennessee in the next 12 months, and so we began to plan then.
MCCAMMON: The clinic began working toward opening a second location in southern Illinois, a state controlled by Democrats with a political environment friendly to abortion rights. In October, they began seeing patients at the new location in Carbondale, Ill., about a three-hour drive from Memphis.
PEPPER: So it has been a wild ride.
MCCAMMON: The Memphis clinic has stayed open, offering other types of reproductive health care, including a birth center and gender-affirming care. The Trust Women Clinic in Oklahoma City also has pivoted toward other services including transgender care, family planning and even medication-based opioid treatment. Rebecca Tong is the co-executive director.
REBECCA TONG: We're committed to staying in Oklahoma City, providing care for the same patient population and an expanded patient population.
MCCAMMON: After Oklahoma banned abortion last year, Tong says her organization moved abortion services to its other clinic in Wichita, Kan., where voters last year rejected a ballot measure seen as unfriendly to abortion rights. Tong says patient volume there has quadrupled since last summer.
TONG: We are seeing patients twice as many days as we had in the past. The level of staffing that we're at is - we think that we've never had this many staff. All of this is new.
MCCAMMON: Many clinics that stay open or reopen in a new location are finding themselves at or near capacity. The clinic at the center of the Dobbs case, Jackson Women's Health, relocated to Las Cruces, N.M. Owner Diane Derzis, who operates several clinics nationwide, says they're no longer able to provide a full spectrum of reproductive health care.
DIANE DERZIS: We are just doing abortions. We are strictly abortion clinics now. That's all we have time to do.
MCCAMMON: It's also a challenging time for patients, says Tammi Kromenaker, whose Red River Women's Clinic moved across the state line from Fargo, N.D., to Moorhead, Minn., last August.
TAMMI KROMENAKER: You know, it's one community here in Fargo-Moorhead, but the difference between the two states is literally night and day.
MCCAMMON: Kromenaker says many of her patients are scared and confused.
KROMENAKER: I literally had a patient yesterday say to me, will I go to jail if I come from North Dakota to Minnesota?
MCCAMMON: She reassured the patient that she would not be penalized for crossing state lines. That said, many legal experts predict that the years to come will bring intensifying efforts by abortion rights opponents to make interstate travel for abortion more difficult, if not illegal. Kristan Hawkins, with the anti-abortion rights group Students for Life, says activists are looking at ways to restrict abortion at the local level even in states where it remains legal.
KRISTAN HAWKINS: It's going to be the city campaign. It's - what can we do? You know, is it passing some sort of ordinance in the city council? Is it getting more active on the streets?
MCCAMMON: Julie Burkhart, who's been involved in the abortion rights movement for decades and co-owns a clinic in Illinois, says clinics have faced opposition for years and will continue finding ways to adapt.
JULIE BURKHART: You know, we have Dobbs now, but that doesn't mean that, you know, we're done as service providers. That does not mean that we are done as a movement.
MCCAMMON: Some providers in blue states are now offering abortion from mobile health units, another innovation for a post-Roe era meant to get as close to patients as possible. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Washington.
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