Planned Parenthood Suspends Abortion Services in Tennessee

Advocate Andy

Move follows enactment of "Heartbeat Bill" banning abortions after six weeks

Following the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs cased that overturned the abortion protections provided by Roe v. Wade, Tennessee's Attorney General moved to quickly enact Tennessee laws that severely restrict abortion access. In response to the Supreme Court case and a subsequent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi announced today that it is suspending abortion services in the state.

“This decision was not made lightly,” said Ashley Cofield, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi. “And it’s due to Tennessee’s legal landscape, which is extremely hostile to abortion access.” 

Attorney General Herb Slatery asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to remove an injunction and allow the "Heartbeat Bill" to go into effect. That motion was granted.

Slatery's office explained the impact in a statement:

“Tennesseans, through their elected representatives, passed the “Heartbeat Bill” in 2020,” said General Slatery. “With today’s unanimous decision from the full Sixth Circuit, the timing provisions prohibiting most abortions are now enforceable.” 

Here's what that means in practice, as explained by the Attorney General's office:

"It is now illegal in Tennessee to abort an unborn child who has a heartbeat.  Specifically, the Heartbeat Bill protects unborn children at 6 weeks gestational age who have a heartbeat, and it also protects unborn children at 8 weeks gestational age or older.  These provisions in the Heartbeat Bill have an affirmative defense for medical emergencies."

Slatery's office indicated that it expects Tennessee's abortion laws to become even more restrictive sometime in mid-August, when the state's near-total ban on the procedure goes into effect.

"General Slatery will notify the Tennessee Code Commission that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe and Casey decisions in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. He will do this when the Supreme Court issues its judgment in Dobbs, which should occur no later than mid-July. Thirty days after that, Tennessee’s Human Life Protection Act will come into effect and take precedence over the Heartbeat Bill. Thus, around mid‑August, Tennessee’s Human Life Protection Act will prohibit the abortion of unborn children after fertilization. This law has an affirmative defense when necessary to save the mother’s life or to prevent irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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