CHICAGO — After then-Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill in 2017 expanding Medicaid coverage of abortion costs, employees at the Chicago Abortion Fund were still hearing from people who were Medicaid-eligible, or already had Medicaid, who didn’t know that their abortion procedures could be covered.
“In a lot of instances, they were delaying that care while trying to come up with the money, and this whole time they could’ve been able to access care,” said Megan Jeyifo, executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, an organization that helps people emotionally and financially as they seek abortion care and services.
Almost three years later, Jeyifo and her team are still hearing similar stories. To help provide more awareness of all that Medicaid covers, the Chicago Abortion Fund has a new billboard campaign affirming abortion as health care throughout Chicagoland and other areas in the state.
The billboards read: “Abortion is healthcare. It’s covered by Illinois Medicaid. We’re here to help.”
There are three billboards across Chicagoland, as well as one in Peoria and one in Champaign. Wanting to get the most eyes on the billboards, Jeyifo and her team chose heavily trafficked areas, like along Interstate Highway 55 (around Forest View) and Interstate Highway 294 (near Midlothian). The third Chicago-area sign is at North Avenue and 25th Avenue in Melrose Park.
The billboards will be up for a minimum of four weeks. They will come down after eight weeks if no one else buys the space beforehand. More billboards are not planned at the moment.
Jeyifo says people who have Medicaid might not know abortion is covered by their plan for a range of reasons. She suspects one reason is that they are given misinformation, or a lack of information, when getting their plan.
“Abortion-related stigmas have always, and will always, be a barrier until we can normalize the conversation around abortion,” she said. “Some of the stories we have heard is that people are not telling folks all of their options.”
Jeyifo hopes the billboards will bring more awareness of people’s options through Medicare, but she also hopes the boards de-stigmatize abortions, especially since it is common for women to have them.
About 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by age 45, according to 2014 data from the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization. Roughly 75% of abortion patients were considered poor or low-income, based on 2014 information from the Guttmacher Institute.
“Part of what’s really important to us is the care work and the compassionate work that we do, especially right now going into an election season,” she said. “We know that people who are trying to access abortions are seeing kind of really vile things probably on their (social media) timelines … about demonizing people who choose to have abortions. We really want to push back against that and say abortion is normal.”
Because some people don’t know about the full gamut of Medicaid coverage, Jeyifo and her team at CAF have case managers screening Illinois residents to see if they qualify for Medicaid, she said.
“Many times, they’re going to be eligible and they’re going to have coverage,” she said.
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