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Minnesota abortion clinic bordering Wisconsin already seeing increase in patients

WE Health Clinic in Duluth estimates calls have gone up by about ten percent since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

DULUTH, Minn. — On a Tuesday morning in July at the WE Health Clinic in Duluth there were no patients. Yet Jordan, the clinic's lead patient educator (who declined to give her last name) is in near-constant communication with women seeking to come to the clinic.

"It's going to be about a 20 minute conversation, okay?" she told one patient over the phone before proceeding to inform them about the abortion they were seeking, and go over questions before the appointment. 

KARE 11 visited the clinic in downtown Duluth on a day they were not performing abortions. Instead, Jordan and other staff members were calling patients about upcoming appointments and scheduling new ones.

Two days a week, the clinic offers abortion procedures, often sought by women who are too far along in pregnancy for abortion pills, called a medication abortion. It is one of seven clinics in Minnesota to offer abortion procedures, and one of only two clinics to do so outside the Twin Cities metro area. WE Health Clinic gives the procedure to women up to 15 weeks and six days pregnant.

Credit: KARE
The building in downtown Duluth in which WE Health Clinic resides. They estimate they've received about ten percent more calls since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

WE Health Clinic normally sees patients from northern Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, the clinic says they have already noticed an uptick in women from other areas.

"We have seen an increase already from eastern Wisconsin and southern Wisconsin," said Paulina Briggs, a laboratory supervisor at the clinic. "We've had a couple patients from South Dakota. We've already gotten one patient from Texas."

Briggs says even before Roe was overturned the clinic noticed more women coming from the Twin Cities, as patients from states where abortion laws were tightening sought care in the metro and pushed up demand.

"Those clinics are experiencing higher wait times, because they are also seeing an influx of patients. So [women are] trying to come to Duluth to come in sooner," she said.

Jordan and Briggs estimate since the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade calls have gone up by about ten percent. Briggs says at the end of June the clinic had performed 300 abortions so far in 2022, compared to 228 during the same time period in 2021. She says WE Health Clinic is discussing adding another day each month to offer abortions. 

"I've had days where literally every time I hang up the phone, I'm getting another phone call to make another appointment," said Jordan.

It was expected that Minnesota would see an increase in women seeking abortions once Roe was gone. Neighboring states have either already banned abortion, or are expected to soon. One of them is Wisconsin, just a five mile drive across a bridge over Lake Superior from We Health Clinic.

Briggs says she does not think the clinic has yet seen the full influx of women anticipated to come now that abortions are not available in their states. 

"I think we're waiting for more," she said.

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood North Central States said their clinics in Minnesota are also not yet experiencing what they expect to be the height of the influx. However, they think the impact on Minnesota will be felt most if Iowa bans abortion.

Briggs says as of now WE Health Clinic is getting patients in within about a week. However, if demand continues to go up she warns it may become harder for women in Minnesota seeking an abortion to find one as clinics reach capacity.

"The fact that people from out of state are now also coming to Minnesota, it's just going to make that access even harder," she said.

What about the groups who are against abortion? Sunrise plans on airing a story the week of July 18 about how their work has changed post-Roe. 

For now, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life told KARE 11 their top priority is supporting anti-abortion candidates in the upcoming election.

RELATED: Ramsey County district judge strikes down many of Minnesota's abortion restrictions

RELATED: Abortion is still legal in Minnesota. What would it take for that to change?

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