News Abortion

Tennessee Abortion Clinics Dwindle as Longtime Provider Shuts Down

Teddy Wilson

“The greater focus ought to be on what is happening to patient rights and access to health care they need—in that context this clinic closure is pronounced,” said Francie Hunt, executive director Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood.

The Women’s Center in Nashville this week closed its doors, leaving only one abortion clinic in the city and six other abortion clinics left in Tennessee, a state with 1.3 million women of reproductive age.

Thomas Jessee, an attorney representing the Women’s Center, told the Nashville Tennessean that the clinic, which has provided abortion care since 1990, is closing because the owners have agreed to sell the building, and the owners are looking for a new location.

“We are looking for an alternative site but haven’t found anything yet,” Jessee said. “We have one doctor who would like to continue, but it’s just a question of finding a place.”

The Women’s Center closure leaves Planned Parenthood as Nashville’s sole abortion provider. Francie Hunt, executive director Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood, said in a statement that the closure of the Women’s Center continues the trend of declining numbers of facilities that provide abortion care as state-level lawmakers pass onerous laws designed to shut down abortion providers.

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“The greater focus ought to be on what is happening to patient rights and access to health care they need—in that context this clinic closure is pronounced,” Hunt said.

The Women’s Center closure will further restrict access to abortion care in a state where 63 percent of women ages 15-44 lived in a county in 2014 without an abortion provider, according to the Guttmacher Institute. During 2016, there were 9,732 abortions performed in Tennessee, according to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Tennessee has among the lowest ranking health-care outcomes for women and children, as the state’s maternal mortality rate has increased by 21 percent since 2016, according to a report by the United Health Foundation.

The Women’s Center and other abortion clinics in the state have in recent years been the target of the GOP-dominated state legislature.

After voters approved in 2014 an amendment to the state constitution that allows the legislature to pass and implement legislation restricting abortion, state lawmakers moved quickly to pass several anti-choice bills that would impose burdensome regulations designed to close Tennessee’s abortion clinics.

SB 1280, signed into law in May 2015, excluded from the definition of ambulatory surgical center any private physician’s office where 50 or fewer surgical abortions are performed in a calendar year. A federal judge in August 2015 blocked the state from applying the law to the the Women’s Center and the Bristol Regional Women’s Center.

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