Restrictive Anti-Abortion Laws Force Tennessee Clinic To Close

Posted on August 16, 2012

Think Progress, August 16, 2012 by Annie-Rose Strasser

An abortion clinic in Tennessee has shut its doors after 38 years, citing new laws that make it unable to continue operations.

Earlier this year, Tennessee passed the Life Defense Act, requiring every clinic in the state to have at least one clinician with admitting privileges at a local hospital. While Volunteer Women’s Medical Center in Knoxville was briefly able to comply, their one clinician who had admitting privileges recently died.

No other providers were able to get the privileges after the law went into effect on July 1 of this year.

In a letter posted on the Abortion Care Network website last week, Executive Director Deb Walsh wrote that the new law “made it illegal for our local, Board Certified OB-GYN physician to perform abortions in our fully licensed Ambulatory Surgical Treatment Center.” She expressed sadness at having to close the clinic after its decades of operation:

“I’ve been able to keep the doors open and the phone staff working up until this week,” Walsh wrote in the letter, titled “End of an Era.” “We’ve been working on legal remedies, injunction, etc., but I was unable to bridge the financial gap of paying the monthly lease and operating expenses without knowing when we could resume seeing patients.”

Sadly, this is exactly the effect lawmakers had hoped for when they passed the Life Defense Act. As in Mississippi, where the state’s only abortion clinic may soon be shut down, there are no medical reasons why an abortion clinician should need admitting privileges.

Rather, such laws — known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) — intend to take woman’s choice out of the equation by pitting a clinic against a legislature. In doing so, lawmakers hope to be seen as regulators of commerce rather than anti-abortion advocates trying to restrict access to health services. But needless regulations are, in fact, just a way to limit access, as evidenced by the clinics like this one that they force to needlessly close.


Posted in: Tenneesee