A new abortion billboard campaign launches this week in Chicago’s suburbs and Illinois reminding the public that abortion is covered under Medicaid in the state.

The billboard says: Abortion Is Healthcare. It’s Covered By Illinois Medicaid.

While most states ban Medicaid from paying for abortions through the Hyde Amendment, two years ago, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner overturned that in Illinois. But there’s a gap in understanding the new law.

The Chicago Abortion Fund — which offers financial, logistical and emotional support to people seeking abortion services — is funding the billboards. Executive Director Megan Jeyifo says they get calls on their hotline from people delaying care.

“And they have a Medicaid card in their wallet and don’t know that with that card they can go to a clinic and receive abortion care at no cost,” Jeyfio said.

Jeyifo recalled an occasion when a rural caller, who had delayed abortion care, dialed their hotline in a panic. The caller had a broken truck in need of repair but couldn’t afford to get it fixed and pay for an abortion. Jeyifo said the caller was relieved when the Chicago Abortion Fund told her that she was Medicaid eligible.

“The relief and tension that came out of her voice, it was so moving and frustrating,” Jeyifo said. “I was so angry … that everyone had worked so hard to get this [Medicaid law] passed and here’s this person that doesn’t know it exists. And that’s when we started talking about raising awareness.”

Chicago Abortion Fund billboard
Courtesy of the Chicago Abortion Fund

There are three signs locally, including ones along interstates 55 and 294 because of heavy traffic. Two others are in Peoria and Champaign. They will be up for the next month.

Women travel from all over the country to have abortions in Illinois. As neighboring states restrict abortion access, Illinois is seen as a haven that protects access. And that protection is largely due to the efforts of a strong and long-standing reproductive justice community in Illinois that has also worked to change the narrative on abortion rights.

The number of abortions for out-of-state residents has been on the rise in Illinois. In 2014, there were 2,970 such terminated pregnancies. In 2018, there were 5,668, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Natalie Moore is a reporter on WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. You can follow her on Twitter at @natalieymoore.

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A Chicago Group Uses Billboards To Highlight That Abortion Is Covered By Medicaid In Illinois – WBEZ