CHICAGO — A new program will help patients who need specialized abortion care get connected with hospitals that can provide it, abortion advocates announced last week.
The CARLA hotline, which stands for Complex Abortion Regional Line for Access, will connect abortion clinic staff with four major Chicago-area hospitals so they can schedule abortion appointments for patients who need hospital-based care.
Health conditions such as high blood pressure, anemia and c-section scarring can complicate the abortion procedure for some patients, requiring the procedure be performed in a hospital setting. Primary care physicians in Illinois can help such patients make hospital appointments for abortions.
But people without access to healthcare or those traveling from other states have been “generally left on their own” to find appointments with hospitals after learning they couldn’t receive care at abortion clinics, said Laura Laursen, the physician co-director of CARLA.
Now, abortion clinic staff will be able to call the CARLA hotline to schedule hospital appointments for patients once they determine they need hospital-based abortion care.
“The program will basically bring together all of the medical and logistical needs of a patient together in one place,” Laursen said. “The patient will have a point person who will be able to walk them through this entire complicated process so they can receive hospital-based abortion care safely and efficiently.”
The Chicago Abortion Fund identified the need for the CARLA hotline because the organization has received an influx of calls from people who live in other states seeking abortion care in Illinois since Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer.
In the year before Roe v. Wade was overturned, the Chicago Abortion Fund supported 26 callers from five states who needed hospital-based abortion care. In the year since the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, the organization received more than 250 calls spanning 19 states from people seeking hospital-based abortion care.
The Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services helped to develop and fund the CARLA hotline so that it’s easier for patients to connect with hospital-based abortion providers.
The Chicago Abortion Fund still pays for the abortion procedures and other resources for callers, including childcare, hotel stays and other travel costs, said Megan Jeyifo, president of the abortion fund group.
“The Chicago Abortion Fund has done a wonderful job helping people navigate the logistics of abortion care,” Laursen said. “They are great at helping patients figure out how they can get to their appointments, how they can pay for them, who’s going to take care of their kids.
“But there really wasn’t anyone available to navigate the medical side of things, like how to get patient records and how to interface with hospitals, which are large entities that do a lot more than just abortion care,” Laursen added.
Jeyifo said the organization was able to secure appointments for everyone who needed hospital-based abortions, but it wasn’t a streamlined process.
“I can’t tell you how many times someone called me from a clinic waiting room and I’ve had to text a doctor we work with saying, ‘Hey, can you help me get someone into a hospital today or tomorrow?’” Jeyifo said.
About 2 percent of people who call Chicago Abortion Fund need hospital-based abortions, but a “staggering” 20 percent of its budget goes toward paying for hospital-based abortion care because it’s much more expensive and rarely covered by out-of-state insurance, Jeyifo said.
“As we get better at providing hospital-based abortion care and helping people get to the right place in a timely manner, we’re going to see more and more people use this program and it’s going to cost more,” Jeyifo said. “So we truly need public and private investment to make this engine go.”
To learn more about the Chicago Abortion Fund and support its efforts, visit its website.
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