MADISON, Wis. - A Wisconsin doctor has purchased two clinical buildings in northern Illinois where he plans to offer abortion pills as early as this week at one location and surgical abortions within six months at the other site.
The move comes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights last month. That led abortion providers in Wisconsin to stop the procedures while the courts determine whether the state’s 1849 law banning most abortions stands. Abortion remains legal in Illinois.
Dr. Dennis Christensen says he is part of a group trying to revive abortion services in Rockford, Illinois, in part to accommodate women from Wisconsin. Christensen is an obstetrician-gynecologist who has provided abortions in Madison and Milwaukee and is now mostly retired, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Christensen recently purchased a former acupuncture office for $75,000 and the former Animal Emergency Clinic of Rockford for $350,000, according to Winnebago County records.
Christensen said he plans to offer medication abortions at the former acupuncture office as soon as Friday. The newly formed Rockford Family Planning Foundation is fundraising and is preparing the second site for surgical abortions, birth control and related care.
"We feel like it’s absolutely essential for us to get open as quickly as possible," said Jeanne Bissell, the foundation’s president.
On Wednesday, pro-life protesters with the Pro-Life Action League and The Rockford Family Initiative were at three locations across Rockford.
"Illinois is becoming an abortion dumping ground. We’ve become the abortion Mecca of the entire Midwestern region, especially with all the new radical policies," said Eric J. Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League.
At one time, Dr. Christensen ran the last abortion site that existed in Rockford — the Northern Illinois Women’s Center. Christensen says he sold it. Health violations piled up and in 2012, the clinic shut down.
Despite opposition, Christensen is now spearheading the opening of the two new Illinois locations.
"What we hope to accomplish is to provide access to abortion services to the patients that are within commuting distance for those in Wisconsin and those in Rockford," said Dr. Christensen.
On Thursday, Planned Parenthood of Illinois and of Wisconsin will announce a partnership to increase abortion access.
The only exception to Wisconsin’s abortion ban involves a risk to the mother’s life. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit last month challenging the old law, arguing that 1980s statutes supersede the ban and that it has been dormant so long it should be unenforceable.
FOX 32's Tia Ewing contributed to this report.