Despite the fact that abortion is now prohibited, a Memphis clinic declares, "We're still standing."
The management of an abortion clinic in Memphis has been fighting for months to keep the employees from being laid off and to launch a new facility three hours away in Illinois.
Tennessee's MEMPHIS — The CEO of a Memphis reproductive health clinic, Jennifer Pepper, did her best to prepare her team for the difficult turn that would come after the Roe decision.
The Choices clinic in the center of Memphis offered abortion services for 48 years. However, everything changed on Wednesday, the day before Tennessee's abortion ban went into force, making the practice a criminal punishable by up to 15 years in jail, according to Pepper.
Choices CEO Pepper has been negotiating with the center's board for months to open a new clinic about three hours away in a different state while also protecting the Memphis staff from layoffs.
For the new clinic in Carbondale, Illinois, where abortion rights seem to be more secure, this meant laying the groundwork. Cross-training former abortion care providers in Memphis has also included teaching them how to offer other services, such as billing Medicaid and working as birth aides.
Pepper stated, "We will unquestionably keep helping our community understand how to access abortion services. People will quickly be able to locate our clinic in Carbondale because of our advertising.
According to the most recent information available from the Guttmacher Institute, more than 40 clinics stopped offering abortions in states with trigger laws within a month following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Since the repeal of abortion rights this summer, at least one facility in Tennessee, in Knoxville, has closed.
At Choices, where the once-packed clinic's waiting area frequently has more empty seats than clients, the reality of the post-Roe v. Wade world has gradually become apparent.
The abortion clinic began receiving more patients after the Supreme Court's ruling, which resulted in a prohibition on abortions after the identification of fetal heart activity (usually at around six weeks), forcing them to turn away people.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant people in Tennessee are among the most susceptible in the country. With roughly 35 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births between 2018 and 2020, the state has one of the worst rates of maternal mortality in the nation. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, black women had a death rate that was approximately three times higher than that of white women.
The clinic's president of medical services, Dr. Terry Grebe, 76, recalls meeting a patient with a life-threatening complication following an illegal abortion while still in training before Roe v. Wade. He recalls reading recently about a Louisiana mother whose hospital refused to end her pregnancy even though the fetus had been identified with a deadly illness.
Anything you can imagine will eventually happen to someone, Grebe said.