Two Tennessee abortion clinics, awaiting a High Court ruling, are battling it

Knoxville, Tenn. – Corinne Roveti worried about what will happen to the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health if the Supreme Court overturns the constitutional right to abortion. The clinic, where he has worked for 33 years to help people across a four-state territory, may close.

“We are not sure if we will be able to maintain the services at all,” said Rowetti, co-director of KCRH and a nurse practitioner who provides gynecological and family planning services in addition to drug abortion and abortion procedures. . Each year, the center provides abortion services to 1,300 to 1,400 patients, including from Kentucky, Georgia and Virginia.

Independent Clinic – Launched in 1975, two years after the historic Supreme Court incident Rowe vs. Wade Decision – One of the first to provide abortion services in Knoxville. KCRH is in the same location in the vicinity of Fort Sanders, located between the old house and the modern apartment building where the students of the nearby University of Tennessee live. It became the only clinic in the area to arrange abortions after a deliberate fire on December 31 at the Knoxville Planned Parenthood Facility.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Rowetti said in an interview with KCRH. “We are exploring, and we are waiting. It’s difficult to make a decision right now, unless we know where things are going. “

The Supreme Court is set to rule on an abortion case in the coming weeks. Lawsuit, Dobs vs. Jackson Women’s Health AgencyMississippi launches state effort to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Rowe Abortion usually guarantees access until a fetus is effective, which is about 23 weeks. In early May, Politico released a leaked draft opinion in the case, indicating that the judges would reverse the long-standing precedent, thus restoring abortion control to individual states.

A photo shows the outside of the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health.  A blue mark on the left side of the entrance bears the name of the clinic.
The Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, an abortion clinic that has been located in the college neighborhood of Fort Sanders since 1975, opened two years after the historic event. Rowe vs. Wade The decision was issued. The staff members at the center are not sure if it will be able to stay open Rowe vs. Wade Was repealed and Tennessee’s “Trigger Act”, which prohibits most abortions, came into force.(Victoria Knight / KHN)

Tennessee is one of 13 states where there is a “trigger law” that if started Rowe In most cases abortion is discontinued. The Trigger Act includes a 30-day window before the ban takes effect, but another measure could speed up that final result.

In 2020, the Republican governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, signed into law a law that makes abortion illegal after the fetal or fetal cardiac activity has been detected, which can occur up to six weeks before conception. According to court documents, most KCRH abortions (about 95%) occurred six weeks after the patient’s last menstrual period. A federal judge barred the six-week ban from taking effect immediately after it was signed, but the ban could be revoked if the Supreme Court overturns it. Rowe.

Rowetti said that for all these reasons her clinic may have to stop abortions as soon as a decision is made. But much will depend on the wording of the final opinion.

For now, KCRH staff has begun advising patients that abortion bans could begin any day. Tennessee, like 26 other states, has a mandatory waiting period for people seeking an abortion between a primary, necessary counseling appointment and a second visit for an actual abortion. Tennessee women have to wait 48 hours.

“We have to say, ‘We really hope we can provide the service for you, but if we get a decision tomorrow, you have another 24 hours before you come back and then we will not be able to see you,'” Roveti said. “So there’s a lot of instability and a lot of unknowns and a lot of frustration.”

Parenthood clinic planned a few miles away. When the fire broke out, it was updating its facilities so that it could offer abortion methods. Previously, the clinic only provided abortion drugs up to 11 weeks of gestation.

Planned guardianship plans to rebuild, although the door may not reopen for 18 months. The clinic is in the design phase for construction, said Ashley Cofield, CEO of Planned Parenthood in Tennessee and Northern Mississippi.

The sign of the planned parenthood facility has recently been vandalized in white to avoid the name of the clinic. “We’re replacing the sign,” Coffield said. “It’s a message to the community that we’re coming back.”

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is aiming to open a mobile clinic this fall that will provide sexual and reproductive health services in the Knoxville area.

Coffield said that if abortion is prohibited in Tennessee, planned parents expect to assist patients in providing counseling and travel costs in a state where the service is legal, as well as providing follow-up care. Some people experience a lot of bleeding after an abortion and may be afraid to go to the emergency room for fear of being charged with breaking the law, although there will be a trial against the doctors who performed the abortion in Tennessee.

“We can tell our patients information about legal services,” Coffield said elsewhere. He said clinic staff are looking to refer patients to North Carolina, Virginia or possibly Florida.

A photo outside the Knoxville Planned Parenthood Clinic shows the vandalized sign.  White paint covers a portion of the mark.
On December 31, 2021, a firefighter set fire to a planned Parenthood Clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee. The building could not be restored and had to be demolished, although there are plans to rebuild. Recently someone smashed a white signboard.(Victoria Knight / KHN)

However, not everyone is sure that it would be safe to advise patients for abortion outside the state. Knoxville OB-GYN Dr. Nicki Jite says some Tennessee doctors are uncertain about what they will be allowed to do and consider abortions for pregnant patients, especially those who have ectopic pregnancies or are about to have an abortion.

“We believe that many of the prohibitions and anti-abortion laws are written in vague language that makes it difficult to treat patients,” Zite said. Tennessee’s Trigger Act states that abortions performed by physicians may be performed solely to prevent a death or to “prevent a significant risk of significant and irreversible impairment of a pregnant woman’s major physical activity.”

“But it’s not clear exactly how much risk there needs to be,” Zite said. “Different physicians practicing in different institutions will have different interpretations of that law.”

Some Tennessee abortion-rights groups have said they have been waiting for this moment for years, but that activity has increased since the draft opinion was leaked.

Max Carwell – a volunteer and founder of the Mountain Access Brigade, an East Tennessee group that operates a phone line that allows people to call or text to seek abortion support and financial support – says his group’s main focus now is fundraising.

Once the Trigger Act came into force, Carville said, “Abortion care will be much more expensive, because people will have to move to another state.”

Other abortion rights advocates are looking at setting up a phone bank to discuss the issue with Tennessee residents in hopes of changing public perceptions and working to get abortion advocates elected in state and local races, said community group Knoxville Reproductive Rights Advocate. .

One thing is for sure, Henshen says: “We will not give up. If they think they are going to criminalize abortion and everyone will be sorry and stay home, they are sadly wrong.”

How anti-abortion groups are preparing for a possible reversal Rowe? Tennessee Right to Life or Knox County Right to Life, the state and county chapter of the National Right to Life, an anti-abortion activist group, responded to multiple requests for comment.

A. Can tweetStacey Dane, president of Tennessee Right to Life, was quoted as saying her agency would not comment on the Supreme Court’s draft and was awaiting official opinion.

Yet, while Tennesseans who support the right to abortion are preparing for the possibility of an end to access, they are also running against the times, almost like seeing the last piece of sand through a glass of sand, uncertain when the final will fall.

“How do you provide services when you are waiting for a decision that could come down at any moment?” Roveti asked.

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