Bill comes on the heels of recently passed constitutional amendment designed to strip Tennessee women of abortion rights
(PRESS RELEASE) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a measure into law today designed to shut down reproductive health care clinics and severely restrict access to safe and legal abortion. Haslam’s signature comes less than six months after a 2014 ballot initiative in which voters narrowly approved a radical constitutional amendment designed to strip Tennessee women’s rights to safe and legal abortion.
SB 1280 requires reproductive health care facilities that provide more than 50 surgical abortions per year to meet the same building requirements as hospital-style surgery centers—a provision that could amount to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and threatens to force clinics in the state to close. A similar measure in Texas forced all but eight clinics in the state to shut their doors until the United States Supreme Court intervened last October.
The measure is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2015.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Last year’s ballot initiative opened the door for Tennessee politicians to begin demonstrating their hostility to women’s constitutional rights and indifference to their well-being, and now they have marched right through.
“With the stroke of a pen, reproductive health clinics are threatened with closure and Tennessee’s reputation as one of the few states in the South to protect women’s rights and health care will be history.
“Women’s rights and access to safe, legal, essential health care should not be determined by where they happen to live or who happens to sit on their state legislatures. Tennessee women are only the latest to see their rights and access to essential health care voted down by lawmakers elected to serve them. They deserve better.”
Also waiting on the governor’s desk is SB 1222—a measure which forces women to delay abortion care by 48 hours and make two trips to their health care provider in order to obtain safe and legal abortion. Measures forcing women to delay constitutionally protected health care have been sweeping the South this legislative session, with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signing a similar measure into law earlier this month.
From clinic shutdown laws–which have closed clinics in Texas and threaten to shutter abortion providers in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama—to outright bans on abortion, women in the South often face innumerable hurdles when trying to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services. Legislators’ time and effort would be better spent on increasing the number of policies that are known to support women and children rather than enacting abortion restrictions that will not only harm Tennessee women, but also wreak additional havoc in a region already decimated by similarly underhanded laws. This session alone, Tennessee politicians have introduced 12 measures aimed at reducing a woman’s ability to obtain safe and legal abortion.
Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women’s Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like Tennessee from imposing restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.