Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Planned Parenthood unveiled a new 18,000-square-foot facility in southern Illinois Wednesday, less than 15 miles from the state's border with Missouri -- where the last remaining abortion clinic is fighting a restrictive new law to stay open.
The organization announced the new abortion clinic in Fairview Heights, one of the United States' largest, was built in secret inside the shell of a former medical office. Planned Parenthood executive Colleen McNicholas said the facility was built without any publicity to avoid protesters and delays. Construction began in August 2018.
"We were really intentional and thoughtful about making sure that we were able to complete this project as expeditiously as possible because we saw the writing on the wall -- patients need better access, so we wanted to get it open as quickly as we could," McNicholas said.
The organization said the facility will offer "family planning and abortion care up until 24 weeks of pregnancy."
Officials said the clinic will begin taking patients next month, and will hire extra staff in anticipation of protests.
Several states have introduced hundreds of bills that aim to restrict abortion, and a dozen have enacted such laws that are now being challenged in court.
Missouri's lone Planned Parenthood clinic is the only medical facility in the state that performs legal abortions. The Missouri Health Department refused to renew its license in May, but it was allowed to continue operating when judges granted preliminary injunctions.
With the large new clinic just 13 miles across the border in Illinois, Planned Parenthood says it will be a great help to an untold number of Missouri women.
Mary Kate Knorr, executive director for Illinois Right to Life, said the state's abortion laws have become so lax that they draw women from several surrounding states -- and refers to the Prairie State as the "abortion capital of the Midwest."