Following news earlier this month that Planned Parenthood’s Nashville Health Center would suspend abortion services, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and Northern Mississippi, Ashley Coffield, said in a statement that the center plans on continuing abortion services next month.
“Just like other health care providers, PPTNM periodically experiences changes in staff, and we are currently taking the next several weeks to fully orient and train new team members,” the statement reads. “We expect to resume abortion services at this location next month.”
The Vanderbilt Student Health Center doesn’t plan on making any changes or adjustments with regards to its sexual and reproductive health services in response to the clinic’s hold on abortion services, but students are encouraged to consult with the health professionals at the center for advice on how to best seek care in the absence of these services.
“The Student Health Center will continue to provide comprehensive sexual health services and has no plans for upcoming changes in our scope of services,” the center’s director, Dr. Louise Hanson, told the Hustler. “We encourage all students to seek care at the Student Health Center for sexual health or pregnancy concerns.”
The clinic is still fully operational apart from the lack of abortion resources, providing all usual services including birth control consultations, cancer screenings, and STI testing.
The news of the suspension of abortion services rattled reproductive rights activists, as the clinic is the last of its kind in Nashville and the largest provider of abortions in Tennessee. Without its abortion services, women would need to travel to clinics over 150 miles away in Memphis or Knoxville to receive an abortion. Further complicating the process, Tennessee is one of 27 states that requires abortion clinics to enforce a waiting period (48 hours in Tennessee) between the initial consultation and the actual abortion procedure.
“Many women need to travel long distances to the nearest clinic, find lodging for at least 2 nights, and then travel back home after the procedure,” said Nicole Baptista (’18), who plans on starting law school in the fall and will seek a career in reproductive justice. “Low-income women often cannot afford to take off work for that long or pay for a hotel. They also may not have affordable transportation options. Single mothers may not be able to bring their kids, who would have to take off school depending on the time of year, or find someone to take care of their children while they are away.”
The Planned Parenthood Nashville Health Center is the second in Nashville to stop offering abortion services this year, after the Women’s Center closed its doors in August when the owners agreed to sell the building it was located in. While the Women’s Center stated its intentions to reopen at the time of its closing, it has yet to announce plans to do so.
Following the initial report that the clinic would suspend abortion services, Nashville native Brigid Bresnihan started the Facebook group “Tennessee Abortion Access Network” in efforts to facilitate transportation and housing for women who may need to travel to Memphis or Knoxville to receive abortion services.