As of Dec. 11, one of the few Planned Parenthood clinics in Tennessee is no longer providing abortion services — at least not for right now. What was previously Nashville's only abortion provider has now begun to refer patients to Knoxville and Memphis clinics, both of which are several hundred miles away. As a result, women in the Nashville area are out of easily accessible options for the time being, according to The Tennessean.
A spokesperson for the Nashville Planned Parenthood clinic said in a statement released on Facebook that the reason for the pause in abortion services is because there's a significant shortage of abortion providers, aka doctors who can perform the service. What's more, the spokesperson said that the clinic planned to reopen abortion services in January, explaining, "Our patients are our number one priority, so it is vital we provide them with high quality and safe care."
The Nashville clinic is still otherwise up and running, offering preventive care services including birth control, STI testing, and cancer screenings.
The number of clinics providing abortion services has steadily dropped over the last two decades, according to The Tennessean; the state now has six active abortion providers, following the pause of abortion services in the Planned Parenthood in Nashville, and the close of the Women's Center last August.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Tennessee still has more abortion clinics than any other neighboring state, besides North Carolina, according to The Tennessean.
According to USA Today, over 6,700 abortions were performed in Tennessee in 2016, and the Nashville Planned Parenthood clinic was the largest abortion provider in the state.
Now, all women who wish to obtain abortion services in the Nashville area will not only have to drive hundreds of miles to do so, they may have to do it twice: Tennessee's 48-hour waiting period law requires a woman to make two clinic visits before an abortion can be performed. In the first, women go through a counseling session, and in the second, women can undergo the procedure itself, if they elect to.
Some women are so bothered by the current situation in Tennessee that they're taking matters into their own hands. One such person is Brigid Bresnihan, a Tennessee woman who set up a Facebook group called "Tennessee Abortion Access Network" following the news of the pause in abortion services at the Nashville Planned Parenthood.
The goal of the Facebook group is to facilitate free transportation and housing for women who need to travel to Memphis or Knoxville to obtain abortion services in the coming weeks. Bresnihan, who has volunteered at the Nashville Planned Parenthood in the past, was also profiled for her work at the Nashville Women's March last year.
To The Tennessean, Bresnihan said at the march last January, "No one wants to hear about sexual assault. No one wants to hear us going on and on about reproductive rights. But in the past year, women have proven that we're not going to be quiet. And that does give me hope."