Over the past week, you may have heard stories or seen my emails about service changes at Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi. Every day, PPTNM’s top concern is the health and safety of our patients and ensuring that people in the communities we serve can get the high-quality health care and education they need. Unfortunately, access to reproductive health care is often politicized, and we want to clear up some misinformation so that no one is unclear about the care we provide or how they can access it.
Planned Parenthood has been in Tennessee for over 75 years, and our doors remain open. We recently announced that we will temporarily not be scheduling abortion services in Nashville while we complete the operational side of a merger. Merging under a unified Planned Parenthood umbrella in Tennessee strengthens all our health centers across the state and allows us to offer our patients the best possible care. During this time, we are temporarily referring Nashville abortion patients to our other health centers, which have extended their hours to accommodate any additional need. We understand that the additional travel for patients is a significant hardship for many, which is why we are working hard to remedy this as quickly as possible, likely very early in 2019.
Misinformation and speculation about what has caused this temporary halt in abortion services in Nashville have made their way to the media. Please allow me to clear the air.
First, our Nashville health center remains open. The caring and talented staff there continue to provide many health services to patients, including cancer screenings, birth control, and STI testing and treatment. Our doors are open and will remain so, and we expect abortion services will resume in early 2019.
Second, Planned Parenthood proudly follows the highest medical standards and guidelines. Opponents of safe and legal abortion are peddling untrue allegations based on anonymous comments. The truth is that PPTNM’s top priority is the health and safety of our patients -- no matter what.
Third, our decision to temporarily halt abortion services in Nashville is in line with the merger process of other health care providers. Mergers can have many important benefits for both staff and patients -- and at the same time, they can create stress and uncertainty during the transition period. In the months of assessment following the merger, we decided to implement some changes to staff recruitment and training, among other operational areas, and this period will allow us to do this. PPTNM’s dedicated and compassionate staff in Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis are all contributing to building our newly-merged affiliate into one excellent team.
It is heartbreaking to know that some of our patients must travel long distances to receive abortion care while these services are temporarily unavailable in Nashville. Almost a decade ago there were 16 abortion providing health centers in the state; now there are only 7, and 4 of them are Planned Parenthood locations. Politicians have imposed an undue and medically unnecessary burden on people who must leave work for two days to access an abortion given the 48-hour waiting period women must endure between their initial appointment and the actual procedure.
We understand the urgency of restoring abortion access in Nashville, and we are doing everything we can to resume care as soon as we can. We are proud to be a trusted provider for so many people throughout Tennessee and I’m so grateful for your support through every transition we make at Planned Parenthood.
We have been through so much together. Get some rest over the holidays because we have a lot of work to do in 2019.