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Despite Supreme Court Decision, TN Women Face Abortion Restrictions

One in three women in the United States has faced delays or an inability to get birth control or other sexual and reproductive care since the pandemic began, according to the Guttmacher Institute. (Adobe Stock)
One in three women in the United States has faced delays or an inability to get birth control or other sexual and reproductive care since the pandemic began, according to the Guttmacher Institute. (Adobe Stock)
July 1, 2020

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The U.S. Supreme Court this week struck down a Louisiana law, also in place in Tennessee, that required physicians who provide abortion services to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The court found the law places an unconstitutional burden on women. However, it remains in effect in Tennessee, as state lawmakers push for even more restrictions during the pandemic.

Cherisse Scott, founder and chief executive of the Memphis-based women's health advocacy group SisterReach, said the admitting-privileges legislation is one of several restrictions Tennessee women face.

"So, though I'm excited that our Louisiana partners were able to defeat this particular piece of legislation," she said, "Tennessee women are still impacted at a disproportionate rate, with a 48-hour waiting period, and then our providers, with admitting-privileges legislation."

The Tennessee attorney general and Department of Health have said, given the Supreme Court's decision, it's unlikely the admitting-privileges law will be enforced. It's been on the books since 2012. In June, Tennessee also became the first state to pass an abortion ban since the pandemic began. If signed by Gov. Bill Lee, House Bill 2263 would ban abortion from as early as six weeks of pregnancy, and restrict the reasons for terminating a pregnancy.

Since the onset of the coronavirus, Scott said, clinics are seeing an increase in women seeking reproductive-health services.

"So, one thing that we're seeing is that there a spike in unintended pregnancies," she said, "not just among young people, but among women in our state."

Because the state has chosen not to expand Medicaid, Scott said, many Tennessee women are unable to afford health care.

"It's really important for our legislators in Tennessee, especially Republicans, to hear from people who have a myriad of issues that inform why they need abortion-care access," she said.

A survey by the Guttmacher Institute found that nationwide, more than 40% of women who are financially worse off as a result of COVID-19 report increased barriers to getting contraception or other sexual and reproductive care. Black and Hispanic women are more likely to face these delays or barriers than white women.

The text of HB 2263 is online at wapp.capitol.tn.gov, and the Guttmacher report is at guttmacher.org.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - TN