One of the largest abortion clinics in the US has been under hush-hush construction for more than a year, but Planned Parenthood is now revealing details. In August, CBS News got one of the first glimpses of the 18,000-square-foot "mega-clinic" in southern Illinois, built about 15 miles from Missouri's sole remaining abortion clinic in St. Louis, which has been embroiled in a battle to keep its license. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, says the secrecy—which involved using a shell company to get the project off the ground—was "intentional and thoughtful," as past Planned Parenthood initiatives had been stymied by protesters and other holdups: She cites such wrenches as vendors refusing to install phone systems and furniture orders never arriving.
As of Wednesday, there was no Planned Parenthood signage on the premises, and the site's construction chief says he just found out this week what the facility was, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. CBS notes the contrast between Missouri, which has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country, and Illinois, which has "gone in the other direction" in expanding abortion access. Mary Kate Knorr, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, calls Illinois "the abortion capital of the Midwest" and says it's a "travesty" women are heading there. The new facility, which could in theory take all of St. Louis' abortion patients if necessary, is expected to be up and running in mid-October in Fairview Heights, per a Planned Parenthood release cited by NPR. "While we continue the fight to maintain access in Missouri, we are excited to expand our abortion services in Illinois," McNicholas says. (Read more Planned Parenthood stories.)