In post-Roe America, pilots take the abortion battle to the skies

  • A four-seater plane takes flight from the suburbs as part of a network of volunteer pilots with Elevated Access.

    A four-seater plane takes flight from the suburbs as part of a network of volunteer pilots with Elevated Access. Taylor Glascock/for WBEZ

  • Pilot volunteers for the Illinois nonprofit Elevated Access donate their time, equipment and gas money to ferry people and providers across state lines for abortion care.

    Pilot volunteers for the Illinois nonprofit Elevated Access donate their time, equipment and gas money to ferry people and providers across state lines for abortion care. Taylor Glascock/for WBEZ

  • Pilot volunteers for the Illinois nonprofit Elevated Access donate their time, equipment and gas money to ferry people and providers across state lines for abortion care.

    Pilot volunteers for the Illinois nonprofit Elevated Access donate their time, equipment and gas money to ferry people and providers across state lines for abortion care. Taylor Glascock/for WBEZ

  • A volunteer pilot works with Elevated Access to provide no-cost transportation for those seeking abortions but living in states that have banned them.

    A volunteer pilot works with Elevated Access to provide no-cost transportation for those seeking abortions but living in states that have banned them. Taylor Glascock/for WBEZ

  • A volunteer pilot prepares to return to Illinois from rural Wisconsin. The man, who asked not to be identified, volunteers to fly patients seeking abortions to Illinois.

    A volunteer pilot prepares to return to Illinois from rural Wisconsin. The man, who asked not to be identified, volunteers to fly patients seeking abortions to Illinois. Taylor Glascock/for WBEZ

  • The Chicago skyline is seen in the distance as a volunteer pilot flies for Elevated Access.

    The Chicago skyline is seen in the distance as a volunteer pilot flies for Elevated Access. Taylor Glascock/for WBEZ

 
By Elly Fishman
WBEZ
Updated 12/5/2022 4:22 PM

From 1,800 feet in the air, the view from a tiny, four-seater plane reduces the Chicago suburbs to a vast landscape of miniature patterns. Above us, flocks of geese fly in V-shape formations beneath sheets of white clouds.

Sitting behind a small wheel, the pilot removes his jacket, places his glasses on his nose and examines an iPad perched between his knees. He studies a map covered in a series of overlapping circles, each indicating one of thousands of small airports across the country.

 

The pilot can land his plane at any of them. Today, the destination is one in rural Wisconsin.

Partway through the flight, the pilot tells me to look out the window. He points to a stretch of land marked by a smattering of farms and one, arterial road.

"That's the Wisconsin border," the pilot tells me. "Doesn't look like much from up here."

But down below, that sliver of land now marks a barrier between legal and illegal abortion care.

• For the full story, go to wbez.org.

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